1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator BEST, for SenatorFraser, presented petitions from 77 residents of Hawthorn, in the State of Victoria, from 56 members of the Church of England resident at Port Fairy and Yambuk, in the State of Victoria, and from 87 members of the Church of England resident in the parish of Stratford, in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
– Before the questions arc called on, I may call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the question, which Senator Stewart proposed to ask Senator Lt.-Col. Neild does not appear on the notice-paper. I rule that the question is not in order. Standing Order No. 115 provides that questions may be put to private members -
Relating to any Bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business of the House in which such members may be concerned.
It is evident that the word “ concerned “ must be given a restricted meaning, otherwise asevery member may be said to be concerned in every public matter connected with the business of the House, every member could ask questions of every other member relating to all such matters, which is certainly not the meaning of the rule. It may perhaps be difficult to formulate the exact meaning of the words in question, but it is sufficient for the present purpose to say that a senator is not “ concerned “ with a “ motion “ within the meaning of the rule, simply because he makes a speech on the motion. The British House of Commons rule is in precisely the same words, and it is laid down in May, 10th Ed., page 238, on the authority of seventeen decisions of Speakers of the House of Commons that -
A question may not refer to debates or answers to questions in the current session.
A number of rulings to the same effect will be found in Mr. Blackmore’s collection of decisions given by Speakers Denison and Brand, pp. 257 to 259. I will only quote one -
The Right Honorable Mr. Bright madea short statement to the House of the reasons of his resignation as a member of the Ministry. An honorable member desired to put a question to the right honorable gentleman in reference to the statement, he had made to the House. Mr. Speaker stated the rule, and the question was not put.
I do not say that either the Senate or the President is bound by rulings given in other Houses of Legislature, but in this instance they appear to me to be correct, and I think they ought to be followed.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Only when Sunday intervenes is it possible that oversea mails for the Western Australian gold-fields lie in Perth for 24 hours before being sent on. On days other than Sunday, if the mails reach Perth too late to be sent forward by the 3.30 p.m. train, they would be sent by the train leaving at 7.30 the same day, but if too late for the latter they must necessarily wait until 3.30 p.m. the next day.
asked the Vice-Presideut of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Whether the coloured races at present in Australia have the right to migrate, from one State of the Commonwealth to another?
– As this is simply a question of law, I propose, following the well-known parliamentary rule, not to answer it.
Bill presented by Senator O’Connor and read a first time.
– I may state that, in connexion with the second reading of this Bill, I have had prepared some notes and illustrations particularly illustrative of schedule 2, which will be circulated to honorable senators. The Bill will be circulated now, so that they may have the interval between now and Thursday next to consider its provisions.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 23rd January, vide page 9149) :
Clause 63 -
If an officer occupies for the purpose of residence the whole or part of a building belonging to or occupied by the Commonwealth, the GovernorGeneral may direct that a fair and reasonable sum as rent therefor be deducted from such officer’s salary, and the amount of such sum shall be fixed by the commissioner or by officers specially or generally appointed for the purpose by the commissioner. In calculating for any purpose the rate of salary of such officer the, amount so deducted as rent shall be deemed and taken to be part of his salary.
– If this clause were struck out, no benefit would be conferred upon officers in the service. We inserted this provision for the reason that, although up to the present time there has been really no regulation in any of the States as to the principle to be followed in charging for quarters, we desire that a charge shall be made’ for quarters where they are provided; that it shall take the form of a deduction from salary, or that the salary shall be what the officer actually receives and the value of the quarters occupied by him. The reason for this is that the present system gives rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction at times when changes ure made, and it occasionally makes it difficult to effect transfers. For instance, an officer might be receiving a salary of £500 ti year, and occupying elaborate * quarters which are valued at £35 a year, and we might want to transfer him to some other place where there were no quarters. We think that the best thing to do is to provide d uniform rule in computing salaries for the purpose of transfer, so that the salary received by an officer shall be the amount actually paid to him and the value of his quarters to be fixed by the commissioner or some person appointed by him. That is the only way in which we can equalize the position of officers in the different towns, gome of whom have elaborate quarters, while others have none. To transfer an officer irrespective of the quarters occupied by him would give rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction in the case of a man transferred from a town, where there were grand quarters, to one in which there were very inferior quarters, or none whatever. He would regard the transfer in the light of a punishment, although the work in the new office might be of the same importance, and carry even a greater salary than that which he had been receiving. If we are to adopt the principle that a man is to receive his salary, and at the same time live free in Government quarters, the result may be that a man sent to a town in which there are no quarters will consider that he is degraded. It has happened in the ‘States that a man receiving, for example, £500 a year, and occupying quarters free, upon being transferred to a place where there were no quarter’s, has demanded an increase of salary equivalent to the value of the quarters which he had been occupying free of charge. We might have a case of that kind, while, on the other hand, a man who was transferred from a place in which there were no quarters to an office in which there were quarters, valued at £35 a year, would not be content to have his salary reduced to that extent. He would say at once - “ £500 a year is my salary, and if I am transferred to this place, where there are good quarters, such as I have not enjoyed before, that is my good luck.” We do not mean by the word “ quarters “ the rooms actually used for carrying on postal work. It refers to buildings with residential rooms. I think the principal point of Senator Neild’s remarks was really the charge that in some cases the quarters had not been properly appraised. A good deal of that objection disappears when we understand that the quarters are going to be properly valued. With a clause of this kind, requiring the commissioner to fix. the value of the quarters, it is more likely that we shall obtain a uniform practice than under the present system. It is not to be supposed for one moment that, by the striking out of this clause, all those who have been paying for their quarters will be allowed to occupy them free of charge. It will simply mean that, where a man in the receipt of a salary of £500 a year, for example, has been subject to a reduction of £35 a year in respect of quarters, the same principle will be continued ; but, on the other hand, if the clause is allowed to remain, it will mean that, in the case of a man receiving £500 per annum, who has been occupying quarters valued at £35, his salary will be reckoned for the purposes of the Act at £535 per annum.
– This is a clause which I know has caused considerable discussion among members of at least one branch of the civil service, but I cannot see that there is anything unfair in it. Senator Neild ‘s fear might be realized in the case of an officer compelled to reside in Government premises for the purpose of insuring their safety. After hearing the Postmaster-General’s explanation, however, I take it that in a case of that kind a very, small value would be placed upon the residential advantages of the office. If a man were compelled to reside on Government premises to insure their safety, I fail to see that the department would be justified in appraising that residence as being of any value to him. I think the explanation given by Senator Drake shows that nothing unfair need be feared from the valuation proposed in this clause.
– The statement made by the Postmaster - General is very fair from his stand-point, but there is another point of view to be considered. Very little advantage is derived by an officer who is transferred from one office to another and given an increase of salary, if at the same time the Government require him to pay a larger rental for quarters than he was previously called upon to pay. Under this arrangement officers will frequently be called upon to pay rent for premises which they do not want. According to the Postmaster-General, a single man in a country town may be called upon to pay as much as £35 a year for quarters.
– The quarters are well worth it.
– They may be well worth £35 a year to any one who wants them, but they are no good to a single man. These palatial buildings are useless to a man who does not want to be put to the expense of occupying them, and cannot afford to furnish them. It is not right to compel men to pay for empty rooms which they have no families to occupy, and cannot furnish for lack of funds. I propose to move an amendment to the effect that rents shall not be charged in cases where for purposes of the postal department a postmaster is required to live on the premises, and where he is actually discharging a duty by living there.
– Do bank managers pay rent when they live on banking premises ?
– No ; because they are regarded as caretakers.
– If the quarters were worth £1 a week to a Government officer, would Senator Neild give him that additional benefit1!
.- I would if he were required to occupy that residence for the purpose of the work of the department. Take, for example, the position of some one connected with the management of a mine, or of a station, in the country. It may be that the owner of the station or the mine has considered that he will make ample provision for the comfort of the overseer, and has provided unnecessarily extravagant quarters. Surely, because that has been done at the instance of the owner of the property, the overseer should not be penalized when he does not require such palatial quarters. We know that many of the palatial buildings to which Senator Drake has referred have been erected at the instance of the good local member, whose duty in Parliament has been to worry the Ministry of the day for a good local building. I know that, in New South Wales, buildings utterly unnecessary and of very extravagant proportions have been erected as post and telegraph offices. They possess living rooms, I admit, big enough to satisfy a large family desiring to live in a “toprope “ style. But all postmasters have not these social ambitions. They have not all large families to occupy these rooms. A single man may be appointed to such an office. All that he wants is a room in which to sleep, for he obtains his meals at the nearest hotel. Are we going to charge that man £35 a year merely because the Government have been profligate and have borrowed, money to erect a building which no one - required except the local member, who wanted the money spent in his district in order that he might make a little capital out of it ?
– That has never been done.
– I am delighted to find that Senator Higgs comes from so charming and moral a State that nothing of the kind has ever occurred there. I congratulate him on representing so admirable and Utopian a State. In New South Wales the thing has been done scores of times. I have an instance in my mind of a post and telegraph office in a certain town, and alongside of it there is erected a local court-house with a facade of about 300 feet. That will give some idea of the extravagant expenditure upon buildings in that town. The post and telegraph office there is established on a similar scale of magnificent public profligacy. The probabilities are that that building contains residential rooms worth something like £75 a year, and are we to penalize to that extent a postmaster who does not want them, because there has been this public profligacy in the past ? I propose to get over the difficulty by an amendment providing that rent shall not be charged where the occupancy of the building is required by the department for the protection or sei* vice of the department.
– Could not the honorable senator leave that to the commissioner?
– The commissioner is going to do all sorts of benevolent things apparently, but I am afraid he will be much more benevolent to the department than to the employes. I think there should also be a provision, that in no case should the charge for rent amount to more than a stipulated sum, say 5s. a week.
– That is less than the rent of a labourer’s cottage.
.- The honorable senator must come from another Utopian State.
– Leave out the words “ as rent,” so that it need not be assessed on the basis of -the value of the building.
.- What is the difference 1
– It makes no difference whether we strike out the clause or not.
– I propose to vote against it, unless I should change my mind later on.
– At first sight this may seem a small matter, but there is more in it than some honorable senators imagine. It has been the cause of a great deal of dissatisfaction in the past, and it is a pity that the Postmaster-General has not collected some statistics of the location, number, and value of these public buildings which would -guide us in this discussion. I direct the attention of the honorable and learned senator to the case of Pittsworth in Queensland, where they have now an exceedingly expensive building as a post-office and telegraph-office. A benevolent Government in that State, for some years prior to federation, was paying at the rate of £100 -a year for the rent of a cottage there, for which no one who knows anything of the value of property would pay more than from 8s. to 10s. per week. If some officer is sent there at a very moderate salary, and occupies such a costly building, which has been provided by the Government, people who do not know will consider that he is remarkably well off. in getting a fine salary and occupying a building worth £100 a year.
– Does the honorable senator think there should be no deduction in that case 1
– I say that if the salary and quarters are estimated together in such a case it will be assumed ‘that a very large salary is paid to the officer. No ordinary person would . give more than 8s. or 10s. per week for the cottage, which was rented there at £100 a year. It was a. wretched building, which a’man could wheel, away upon an ordinary hand cart ; but. there is, no doubt, that some friend or favorite whom the Government were anxious to benefit got a nice thing for his cottage. I can refer the Postmaster-. General to another case in North Ipswich, where a fine building was erected some years ago, doubtless through the influences, mentioned by Senator Neild. In consequence of the small amount of work done in North Ipswich that place has been closed for some time past. If that office were again opened, and the small amount of work to be done there engaged the attention of a young unmarried man, he would get a very moderate salary, but he would occupy very extensive quarters. They might be valued by the commissioner at a very considerable sum, in consequence of the amount expended upon them, and that would not be fair to the officer who went there, with a very low salary. He might be asked to pay £30 a year for the occupancy of that building. As mentioned by Senator Neild, where it is necessary that a Government officer should remain on premises for the performance of his duties he should not be asked to pay any rent, as he is there as the protector of Government property. I know that in some of the remote parts of Queensland the public buildings are absolutely worthless, and it is unfair to charge the officers residing in them a single penny.. This matter of house accommodation has given rise to a great deal of heartburning and hardship in Queensland, and I have no doubt the same difficulty obtains in other parts of the Commonwealth. I have said that I think it a pity that we have not some statistics to guide us in dealing with the matter. There need have been no difficulty in supplying such statistics. I remember getting a return before the referendum vote was taken of the estimated value of the properties connected with each of the departments in Queensland.
– But not a description of the separate buildings.
– Certainly not a description of the separate buildings, but a statement of the number of buildings, where they were, and their estimated value. The committee will be acting wisely if they make some provision in this Bill which will put an end to the heartburnings and hardships, which, in many instances, have arisen in connexion with this subject.
– I have a great deal of sympathy with the views expressed by Senators Glassey and Neild, because I know that in New South Wales an officer has often been compelled to live in a building containing quarters much beyond his requirements. He has been obliged to furnish it, and to employ extra labour to take care of it. That, of course, is grossly unfair, and the object of this clause is to enable the commissioner, in such a case, to assess the rent, not upon the value of the building, or the value of the accommodation provided, but upon the fair 4ind reasonable value of the accommodation which it gives to the officer, or which he would require. As there may be some little doubt occasioned by the use of the word “ rent,” I would suggest an amendment. If the words “ a fair and reasonable amount of rent be deducted” are allowed to remain the commissioner may feel himself bound to assess the rent upon the rental value of property, which in very many cases would be altogether wrong. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that the words should read “ a fair and reasonable sum in respect of his occupation thereof,” so that in the case, for instance, of a single man, requiring perhaps only one room, lie should not be charged more for the quarters provided than he would have to pay outside for his accommodation. On the other hand, in the case of a man with a family requiring a certain number of rooms, he should be charged in the same way for the value of that accommodation. If this suggestion is adopted the commissioner will be able to do what is right and fair as between, the officer and the Government. On the one hand it is not fair that an officer who would have to pay outside for quarters should occupy Government quarters for nothing, and on the other hand he should not have to pay for the occupation of Government quarters more than he would have to pay for the accommodation he requires outside.
– The suggestion of the Vice-President of the Executive. Council is a very good one so far as it goes, but I should like to see an addition to the clause to the effect that -
Provided that in the case of officers residing upon premises to enable them more effectually to discharge their official duties, no reduction shall be made.
Those of us who have moved about Aus*tralia have come across many cases in which Government officers have been positively at a disadvantage in being obliged to use unduly large premises. There are cases also in connexion with the Post and Telegraph department, where postmasters have to work at all hours of the night in connexion with the arrival and despatch of mails. I know at Toowoomba, where I resided for a number of years, the postmaster was in days gone by often up until two o’clock a.m. for so many nights a week. It is, therefore in my opinion necessary that some such proviso as I have suggested should be added to the’ clause. We know that the position of the post and telegraph master in an inland town is looked upon as an influential one, and he is called upon for all kinds of public subscriptions. Unless he is a hard-hearted man, his hand is continually in his pocket. I can speak with some knowledge, having been a bank manager in a country town. People always imagine that such officers are much richer than they are, and they are continually called upon to give, give, give. I think there should also be some consideration shown for officers sent from one place to another. The removal of furniture from one place to another is often a serious loss, and the advantage of premises without rent is scarcely sufficient compensation for the loss to which officers are put. I trust ‘that the Postmaster-General will accept the suggestion with respect to the occupancy of places, and the rent to be charged, and that he will see his way also to accept my proposed amendment.
– I wish to raise my voice against the pernicious practice growing up in this Chamber of honorable senators springing amendments on the committee at the eleventh hour when they know perfectly well that they are jumping the claims of others who have circulated amendments for months. Senator Neild proposes that rent shall not be charged where the occupancy of buildings is necessary for the protection of the property of the department, and he must be aware that months ago I circulated the following amendment -
Provided always that such occupation shall be free of rent when for the purpose of protecting Government property or carrying out Government duties.
I am thoroughly in accord with the sentiment expressed by Senator Neild yesterday, that it is not fair for an honorable senator to jump another honorable senator’s claim. This is certainly not “ poetic justice.”
– The amendment suggested by the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil would have the effect of carrying out what is really intended by this clause. “What we desire is to get the value of the quarters fixed fairly by the commissioner. The basis of the valuation should be what it would cost the officer to get similar quarters outside if no quarters were provided for him by the department. Thesalary attached to the office does not include his board and lodging, which he has to find himself. If it is a convenient thing for the department - and very often it is a most convenient thing for the officer also - to provide quarters for him, a deduction is made from his salary representing what he would have to pay if quarters were not provided for him by the department. I therefore think that the principle embodied in the amendment suggested by theVice-Presidentof theExecutive Council is correct. ButIcannot agree with the amendment suggested by Senator Walker, because it would very often happen, if it were adopted, that officers who sometimes occupy the most elaborate’ and palatial quarters would be charged nothing for them, on the ground that they were there for the convenience of the department. I have a return here from which honorable senators will see the necessity for a clause of this kind if we are to introduce uniformity, which means fair play between all the officers. The necessity for a uniform system was very evident in Queensland when I was the head of the Education department of that State. In spite of the fact that our buildings were erected very much on the same lines in the first instance, from decay, or neglect, or other circumstances, the quarters in one town would be very much better than those in another. These differences were taken into consideration in making a change of officers. In one case quarters might be valued at £10 ; in another case at £25. If a man has been occupying quarters valued at £25, and is removed to another town where the quarters are valued at £10, he gets the advantage of the additional £15 in respect of his salary; and if a man has been occupying quarters valued at £10, and is moved to a place where the quarters axe valued at £25, he gets a similar advantage. What we propose to do is to give power to the commissioner, or some other officer appointed by him, to decide as to the value of” these quarters. The return which I have mentioned is as follows : -
Statement showing the Practice followed in the postmaster-general’s Department in the various States with regard to official quarters.
New South Wales. - The value of quarters, in accordance with a scale based on salary, is added to the salary attached to the office, and is then deducted from salary of postmaster as rent for quarters. Deductions vary from£20 to£50 according to the salary attached to office.
Victoria. - Where quarters are provided a reasonable amount is deducted from salary as rent, but the Reclassification Board decided that, in nearly all cases, an amount to cover such deduction should be added to the salary of the official concerned.
Queensland. - Quarters are considered as an allowance in addition to salary, and the value (generally assessed at one-fifth of salary) is shown as portion of an officer’s emoluments. Such allowances, however, are not taken into account when dealing with the status of officers in cases of transfers &c.
South Australia. - Nodefinite rule has been laid down. The practice has been to not charge rent for quarters where same are provided - the object of providing quarters being to secure the officer in charge living on the premises for their protection, and to insure his being in attendance for early and late mails.
Tasmania. - Quarters are provided, and are considered to be an addition to salary.
Western Australia. - Quarters are not considered as an allowance in addition to salary, and no deduction from salary is made for value of quarters.
What we want to do in this case is to secure fair play all round by deducting the value of the quarters from the salary. That seems to me to be the fairest principle to go upon if we are to do justice to officers in all grades of the service. I move -
That the words “as rent therefor” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in respect of the occupation thereof.”
-It seems to me that it is quite impossible to do what the PostmasterGeneral wants, but which he has not really tried to do, namely, to establish some uniform rule. The clause provides that there shall be no uniform rule, but that every case shall be dealt with on its merits. Where then is the uniformity ‘( Even if the clause carried out the Minister’s intention of establishing a uniform rule I should object to it. We cannot establish a uniform rule in a matter where the circumstances alter the cases so completely. Take the case of a man from one of the cities who is sent to live in the middle of Australia, a place he is most reluctant to go to. He is forced to go there or lose his situation, and the Government will charge him rent, although he could not get any other house than that the Government has built, there being no other place there. Yet on account of his very disadvantage and uncomfortableness, the Government have the power of making a deduction from his salary on account of the premises he occupies. The clause does not provide that a charge shall be made, it is true. It says the Government “may” make a charge. “May” means option. It leaves the position exactly where it is at the present time, and there is no uniformity about it. The Government may say to any officer : “ You are to go to such and such a place ; there are most convenient quarters for yourself and your family, and we will charge you so much rent.” The officer has to pay the rent. That the Government can do at present. All that is now being provided is that the Governor-General “may” do exactly what he can do now. But if it is made compulsory - and, as Senator Neild has said, the interpretation of Acts of Parliament by heads of departments is always in favour of the revenue - “may” will be interpreted as “ shall.” There will be uniformity, but there will also be gross injustice, because people will be charged for quarters they do not want to go to, and would be better without. They will be charged for being forced into a position which the necessities of the service may have compelled them to occupy. We should not penalize them for an inconvenience. We had better have no clause on the subject, or leave it in the option of the “commissioner,” which, after all, will be the Government, to determine in what cases there shall be a charge, and in what cases there shall be none. The shorter way will be to strike out the clause, and leave the matter in the position in which’ it is at present, and then the Government will come as near to uniformity as they can get, because the power will be in the hands of the central authority.
– They cannot give free quarters to postmasters and pilot housekeepers unless you mention it.
– And you do not mention ‘it. If you once begin to enumerate who is to pay and who is not to pay, you introduce difficulties.
– Senator Smith’s amendment will provide for that.
– I do not think so. It would be very much better to leave the matter at large as it is, and then those will be charged with quarters who ought to be, and those will not be charged who ought not to be. All you can do, at any rate, is to give the Government a power which they already have.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I understand that the PostmasterGeneral will consent to my moving that the blank, when it is created, be filled by the insertion of the words -
Representing the value of the accommodation necessary for the purposes of the office concerned.
If the officer is single, then the Government will not be able to charge him more rent than his own circumstances require. I shall move that amendment when the blank is created.
– Not only the Government, but the committee should encourage public officers holding such responsible positions as postmasters to become fathers of families. This amendment will act in an opposite direction. If honorable senators wish to penalize any one let them penalize the single man, and not the married man. ‘ As I understand the position, if a postmaster at £400 a year happens to be a single man, £8 or £10 will be deducted for the use of a couple of rooms out of six or seven in the building ; but, if he is a married man, and uses all the rooms, £30 or £35 will be deducted when he has others to maintain besides himself. That is exactly the opposite of what I think ought to be done.
– It will be found that the department will not send single men to places where there are big quarters.
– Why should . we make any difference between married men and single men 1
– There is no difference made between them. That is only a deduction which has been drawn.
– I understood from Senator O’Connor that there would be a distinction made.Would not a married mart have to pay more for accommodation than a single man ? The bigger the family the bigger the deduction it seems to me. The best thing we can do is to knock out the clause and charge nothing, and let the officer occupy as many rooms as are available in the building if it has been erected in excess of official requirements.
– The omission of the clause will not have that effect. If it is struck out, the present condition of affairs will continue. Officers will be charged all sorts of amounts for all sorts of quarters, and there will be no regularity or system of fairness amongst the officers at all. There is no mention here of single men and married men. That is a deduction which has been drawn, and it seems to me it is not at all helpful. The amendment which has been drafted by Senator Neild is designed to meet the objection that in some cases an officer might be required to pay for quarters which were largely in excess of his requirements. The proper principle to go upon is to charge the officer for the use of the premises, which, if not provided free by the department, he would have to get ; and the question is, what would he have to pay for such accommodation?
– As a caretaker, his services are worth something.
– That is a matter which might be taken into calculation, but you do not want to give an officer reception rooms, sitting-rooms, bedrooms,kitchen, and everything else because he occupies the position of a caretaker. If you require a caretaker, probably you can get one for a few shillings a week.
– He may not want them.
– It is in order to meet that difficulty that it is proposed in this amendment that he shall only be charged for such quarters as are necessary for his purposes. That brings us round to what I said in the first place, that the basis of calculation will be - what would the officer have to pay for the quarters if they were not provided for him by the department ?
– If he wanted them.
– That has not been proposed yet, and if it were proposed I should resist it to the uttermost. The proposal, as I understand it from some honorable senators, is that we are to make a new departure, and to give free all the quarters which have been paid for previously. In some cases officers in comparatively low positions at small salaries would get an addition to their salaries of £20, £30, or £40 a year, and perhaps in New South Wales of £50 a year, whereas other men, really occupying higher positions, would get no increases because they had not been getting free quarters. You could not proceed in such a wild, vague way as that. We are simply accepting the present position of affairs. We wish to adopt a uniform principle, so that we shall know on what basis the salary ought to be calculated, and to consider the salary as being the whole amount which the officer receives plus the value of the quarters he occupies.
– I presume that the PostmasterGeneral, in estimating the value of an officer’s services, will take into consideration the number of hours he has to work in many country places, and the inconvenience he is called upon to suffer by having to rise at midnight or at 2 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I presume that when the Government decided to provide a house for the convenienceof a postmaster they considered that it was essential to have their officer living on the premises, so that whenever a mailman arrived the mails could be delivered and despatched. When the Government erected the building they had it in their mind that it was necessary to have a caretaker, for the protection of their property and money against robbers, and for the convenient working of the office. If the Government chose to provide more rooms in the building than were necessary, why should the postmaster, who is put to the inconvenience of rising at all hours of the night, and of being at the beck and call of anyone who wishes to obtain official information, be compelled to pay rent for these quarters? In a city that officer would attend at his office for so many hours and then go to his own residence, where he would be free from any worry until next morning. I always understood that when quarters were provided the officers were considered to be on duty practically all the time. To my knowledge in many places the residences are beyond the requirements, and the officers ought not to be penalized on that account. No bank directors that I am aware of ever think of charging a bank manager rent for residing in their building. He is there to look after the building and to deal with any intruder.
– It is included in his salary.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Do we include the residence of the Governor-General in his salary ?
– Certainly we do ; we give him so much a year and free quarters.
– Yes, but we do not set it down that the quarters are valued at so much. We give a civil servant a salary of £200 or £300 and quarters, because he is placed at a certain disadvantage in having to reside on the premises. I fail to see the necessity to charge rent for the services which an officer renders to the department by living on State premises.
– For ten years I have been going through the estimates of salaries of civil servants, and I can say that wherever we have had to deal with a man with quarters, fuel, and light, or quarters, fuel, light, and rations, we have got into trouble from the want of that uniformity which the PostmasterGeneral has been urging us to adopt for the last hour. It is perfectly certain that if we wish to avoid injustice, we must have uniformity of remuneration. That an accountant employed in a city office should receive £200 a year without quarters, while a postmaster in a country town receives £230 a year and free quarters, worth £40 or £50 a year, is grossly unfair. As we go through the Estimates, we shall find ourselves face to face with the difficulties which have confronted us in all the States. Let us adopt a uniform practice. No officer has a right to free quarters. I am rather astonished at the opinions expressed by Senator Charleston, and also by Senator Walker, who said he liked to see some of the officers enjoying little perquisites and advantages. Let us give our officers a fair salary, but do not give anyone class free quarters, as against another which has to pay. Do those honorable senators who talk so generously about free quarters for these officers realize the enormous sum of taxpayers’ money which they propose to give away? Are they aware that not only do the Government build these quarters, but that they have to keep them in repair? I know that in the Estimates submitted to the Tasmanian State Parliament provision is made for spending £3,000 or £4,000 a year in keeping the schools alone in good order, and I believe that the amount required to maintain the post-offices of the Commonwealth in good repair will be from £10,000 to £20,000 a year. It is monstrous to suggest that postal officers should occupy free quarters, whilst officers in other departments have to pay for their residences. Senator Neild’s amendment is a fair one, inasmuch as it does away with the objection that an officer might be appointed to an office attached to which were six residential rooms, although he required only three for his accommodation. I was going to suggest an amendment to the effect that in estimating the rent the value of the premises to the occupant should be the chief consideration. I think, however, that Senator Neild has put the matter in terser language, and I hope that the clause, amended in the way he proposes, will be adopted.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Lt.-Col. Neild) agreed to -
That the words “ as rent therefor “ be omitted.
Amendment (by Senator Lt.-Col. Neild) proposed -
That the words “representing the value of the accommodation necessary for the purposes of the officer concerned” be inserted after the word “sum. “
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 9
Noes … … … 13
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I propose to move the insertion of the following proviso at the end of the clause -
Provided always that such occupation shall be free of rent if for the purpose of protecting Government property or carrying out public duties.
– I have an amendment to propose earlier in the clause. I move -
That the words “ provided that in case of officers who are required to reside upon. Government premises in the interests of the department employing them no such sum shall be charged “ be inserted after the word “commissioner,” line 9.
– I was proposing an amendment to the same effect when Senator Neild interposed.
– That cannot be helped. Senator Neild intimated that he had an amendment to propose earlier in the clause.
– I cannot assent to this amendment, for reasons which I have given already. It is admitted that in a great number of cases these quarters are provided, not entirely in the interests of the officers, but because it is desirable that the officer in charge of an office should reside on the premises where convenient. It may be that a department goes to unnecessary expense very often in providing these quarters! but surely that is no reason why officers should occupy them free of charge. The effect) of this amendment would be, in many cases, to give free quarters to officers where those quarters were especially valuable. In some of the new towns which have sprung up quarters are erected, which provide for the requirements of the officer in charge, and save him from the very large expense which he would be compelled to incur in securing a private residence. These quarters are for the convenience of the officers as well as for the convenience of the Government, and it would be very difficult for the commissioner to decide in some cases whether they were occupied for the benefit of the Government or not. The amendment would not deal fairly with officers all round. It would simply introduce a rule under which one officer would have to pay for his quarters, while another man,- would obtain them free. It is wholly against the object of this clause, which is to arrange the matter so that all officers shall be treated in the same way.
– I notice that in nearly all the observations made by the Postmaster-General, considerable stress is laid by him upon the position of officers residing in towns. I would direct his attention to the fact that in the large State of Queensland, for example, there are very few officers residing in towns of any importance. A very large number of officers are stationed in country places, and it is necessary for them to live in the Government quarters in order to meet the requirements of these sparsely populated localities, as well as for the safety of the property itself. It would be monstrously unfair to make those officers pay rent for the quarters. I am sure the PostmasterGeneral “must realize that in scores of instances, particularly in Queensland, where we have something like 900 post-offices, the officers in charge live on the premises in order to meet the requirements of the people in these scattered districts. In some of these sparsely populated localities persons have to travel long distances in order to obtain their letters or telegrams from the post-office, and often arrive at the postoffice late at night. Sometimes there are floods, and it is almost impossible for them to travel. The officers must be there to attend to these callers, and is it reasonable to ask them, when placed in such a position, to pay rent for their quarters 1
– One would think from Senator Glassey’s speech that postmasters and telegraph operators, who live in premises provided for them at the expense of the general community, do not derive any advantage. After what the honorable senator has told us it is no wonder that there is a loss of £150,000 or £160,000 a year on the Postal department of Queensland, but the honorable senator proposes to increase this loss to a very considerable extent. Postmasters and other officials are often required to be on duty for long hours and at very odd times, and it is manifestly more convenient for themselves to live in premises adjoining the public offices in which they are employed. It is for the convenience of the officers, as well as of the Government, that these residential quarters are attached to public buildings, and the officers should certainly pay for them, and not always upon the basis of the accommodation they require. Some consideration should be had to the necessity cast upon the Government of providing the class of accommodation which may be required, and an officer may be called upon on that account to pay a little more in some cases than he would have to pay outside. Surely the country is not always to suffer? An officer getting quarters is as much entitled to pay for them as an officer who is not provided with quarters is to pay for the accommodation he requires out of his salary. I am surprised that a senator from the ‘‘model State” should say that the accommodation provided is not taken into consideration in fixing the salary of the Governor of the State. Of course, it is taken into consideration when the salary is voted.
– Under this clause he could be charged rent.
– If it were necessary to reduce the Governor’s salary I do not see why he should not be charged rent. Honorable senators must know that there are numerous cases in which it is plainly stated that quarters, fuel, and light are provided, and are taken into consideration in fixing the salary of an officer. We cannot have an absolutely uniform system in connexion with this matter. If an officer is sent to some of the central parts of South Australia he cannot fairly be charged rent, and we must add something to his salary to meet the extra cost of living in that part of the country. In the same way we cannot have a uniform system of rates of pay. If we send a man to the Northern Territory of South Australia we must give him a higher salary than is given to a man occupying a similar position in the more settled parts of the States. In the same way workmen on the railway lines get additional pay according to the distance they are away from the settled parts of the country. That is perfectly right and just. Therefore I say that it would be a great deal better not to attempt to deal with this matter in an Act of Parliament, which must necessarily aim at uniformity. It should be left to the Government of the day to treat every case on its merits, and so far as possible secure uniformity where uniform conditions prevail throughout the Commonwealth. The whole clause is a mistake, and it would be better to strike it out.
Question - That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, negatived.
Clause 66 -
On receiving notice of any pecuniary penalty imposed upon any officer under the authority of this Act the officer who pays the salary ofthe officer so punished shall deduct the amount thereof from such salary.
– This is a matter which has been much discussed by public servants. In some cases the fines are very considerable, and though, no doubt, they are often very properly imposed, there is a feeling in the service, in which I concur, that these penalties should be paid into some fidelity fund from which the public servants themselves would benefit. I would ask the Postmaster-General if he has considered that subject, or if he is. prepared to consider it favorably ? I suppose these fines are now paid into the Treasury.
– If the honorable senator will look at the amendments which I have tabled, he will see that I propose to add a sub-clause to clause 66. I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - 2. “The amount of any pecuniary penalty shall be paid into any fund established for guaranteeing thefidelity of public officers.”
– Why limit it to that There might be a superannuation fund.
.- It will reall make no difference ; the service as a whole would get the benefit of it, whether the money were applied to life assurance, superannuation, or fidelity guarantee. I may point out that’ fidelity funds of this kind have been established in connexion with some of our largest institutions, and that they have brought the annual contributions required from members of the service down to a mere bagatelle. Where the fund is practically the property of the officers concerned every one is interested in its success, and in seeing that there shall be no cause for drafts upon the funds. The deductions made from officers’ salaries are continually reduced as the fund accumulates. I propose that the penalties which are imposed, perhaps for some peccadillo or another, shall be paid into a fidelity fund, thus reducing the amount the officers will have to pay. Senator Dobson asks why the money should not ‘be paid into a life fund. There must be some finality about it. The penalty should be paid to the fund which is the most proper for the purpose.
– If you establish it what good will it be ?
-Does the honorable senator really mean that question seriously ?
– The honorable senator must be a great humorist.
– Why not pay the money into the Treasury ?
.- If it is paid into the general revenue there will be no fund, and we shall not know what the value of the contributions are. If honorable senators cannot see that any public object will be served by the creation of such a fund, I pity them. It is notorious that charges for guarantee purposes are constantly made against officers’ salaries. Such a fund as I contemplate would accumulate year by year, and as soon as it reached a certain sum proportionate to the risk run, it would not be necessary to pay in so large an amount. As the fund still further accumulated, there might come a time when there need be no payments at all. If these fines are paid into the Treasury, the money will be disbursed. I am acting in the interests of the officers themselves. Surely the Postmaster-General cannot object to such a proposal.
– I gather from the remarks of Senator Neild that he does not contemplate that this fund will be drawn upon for a long time, because all the officers in responsible positions now are required to enter into a fidelity bond with one of the large institutions existing for the purpose, so that in the case of any shortcomings the institutions make it good. Consequently I understand that if a fund of the kind proposed were established, it would not be operated upon until it had reached such dimensions that the present system of fidelity bonds could be dispensed with. If we Iia ve our present system remaining we do not want a fund. It is proposed that the fund shall consist of accumulated penalties. Although a system of fines may be necessary in big departments, it is a system which I have never taken kindly to. I dislike the idea of fines if they can be avoided. It is undesirable that there should be a fund to be maintained from the fines imposed upon officers. I am aware that in some instances fining is a more suitable and more merciful form of punishment than the alternative method, but I do not like the idea of looking upon fines as a means of keeping up a necessary fund. I shall oppose the amendment.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland).- The Postmaster-General must know that fines are constantly being imposed. I believe that while I was in the Government service I once paid a shilling fine myself. The infliction of a small fine is a more merciful way of treating an officer than the infliction of a drastic punishment. So long as fines are imposed, there is nothing wrong in putting the money into a fidelity fund. All officers charged with the’ handling of money must enter into a bond. It is not at all unreasonable to propose that a fidelity fund, ultimately to take the place of these bonds, should be established by means of the fines imposed in the departments. I do not attach great importance to the amendment, but shall vote for it.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales). - I quite join with the PostmasterGeneral in expressing the hope that not many fines will be imposed, but my proposal does not involve the imposition of fines. It simply say3 that where a fine is imposed, instead of paying the money into the consolidated revenue, it shall go to a fund which shall be for the benefit of the whole service. Surely there is nothing unreasonable in that. It is the most common sense proposition that could possibly be submitted.
– Why should one man ^benefit from another man’s transgressions 1
.- If the honorable and learned senator is going to submit philosophical propositions of that kind, we probably shall not get the point settled before the end of the session. I am submitting a common sense business-like proposal, and if the committee will not accept it, I cannot help it.
Question - That the new sub-clause proposed to be added, be so added - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That after the word “holidays,” line6, the following words be inserted: - “and in case of illness may at any time on production of a doctor’s certificate grant leave of absence not exceeding eighteen days.”
According to the clause leave of absence for illness can only be granted by the Minister, and as he may beat a great distance from some of the centres, it is necessary to insert these words so that temporarily the local authority may have power to grant leave of absence up to eighteen clays. Otherwise he will not have power to grant any leave in a case of illness.
– It seems to me that the object of the clause is to enable the head of the department to grant to the officer the number of days in each year that he is entitled to under the statute for recreation purposes. The clause enables thechief officer tograntthoseeighteen days at such periods as may seem meet to him ; but if any other leave is required the matter is to be referred to the Minister. Surely there is no great difficulty in the way of a permanent head in a State communicating with the Minister, and getting authority to grant special leave in a case of illness or for any other reason. The matter is left in the hands of the permanent head only in the case of the statutory leave to which every man is entitled.
– The clear intention of Senator Smith is to widen the power of the officer to grant leave in case of illness, but his amendment may have rather an opposite effect. At the present time, the power rests with the Minister, but the officer who is in charge at the time, in case of illness, grants leave. Of course, if a man. is so ill as to be unable to perform his duties, he naturally gets leave ; the Minister is communicated with, and the action of the officer is sanctioned and confirmed. This amendment requires the production of a doctor’s certificate, so that it would actually prevent the chief officer in the State from doing what he has been in the habit of doing - granting leave without a certificate, and then getting the certificate, which is communicated to the Minister, who grants three months’ leave.
-Col. Neild. - Supposing that there is no doctor within reach ?
– There may be no doctor at hand. If these words were inserted they would necessitate a further amendment, because the term of three months’’ leave which may be given by the Minister would have to be reduced by the amount of leave which had been given by the chief officer. I do not know that any trouble has arisen in the past, and I think the clause may be allowed to go through in. its present form.
– I think there is reason for making some provision for leave of absence on account of sickness. After consultation with a considerable number of public servants on this point I gave notice of an amendment which I propose to move in the next clause and which I suppose I shall not be out of order in reading now -
Leave of absence on account of illness, shall be* granted on the same terms and conditions and for the same periods as for recreation as provided in the preceding section, but such leave on account of illness shall not be reckoned or included in any grant of leave for recreation, nor shall there be any deduction nor reduction of salary in respect thereof.
This amendment will provide that a man shall not lose his recreation leave, because he has had sick leave. That will be admitted to be a fair proposition. I do not think that the amendment of Senator Smith covers the question. There is also the point of whether a doctor’s certificate is always forthcoming. I think that the heads of departments ought to be in a position to grant leave without insisting on the production of a medical certificate on every occasion.
– This very important provision deserves some little consideration, because it affects a considerable number of officers who are removed from the centres of population. I think that the amendment is altogether impracticable. Take a number of places in country districts which may be far removed from a -doctor’s residence. An officer may send word to the chief officer either by letter or by a friend that it is impossible, in consequence of illness, for him to attend at the office that day. In many places in country districts it is impossible for an officer to get a doctor’s certificate at that time ; in fact a week may elapse before he is able to get one, and then the doctor, in consequence of knowing the officer, or of knowing some of his relations or friends, may certify that he has been ill, or he may see the officer at the termination of his temporary complaint. I speak from a little experience. I was overtaken with illness. It was impossible for me to go to the office, and I sent word by a friend that I could not attend that day, and suggested to the chief officer that some person might be put in my place.
– The honorable senator did not have to pay a guinea to get a doctor to inspect him ?
– That was not necessary, because it was only a temporary illness. Outside Brisbane, Ipswich, and Toowoomba the doctors in many cases live miles away from where our officers are employed. In the Fassifern, Cambooya, and Dalby districts there are scores of townships where three or four officers are employed, but there is not a doctor to be found within many miles, of them. In centres of population an officer can consult a doctor and get a certificate, but there are hundreds of -places where that would be impossible. I would recommend the Postmaster-General to leave with the chief officer the power to grant temporary leave of absence, it may be for a day or two. I drafted an amendment on those lines, but I do not wish to bring it forward, if the clause can be amended at the instance of other honorable senators. I shall certainly oppose this amendment so far as it requires the production of a doctor’s certificate, because it would be absolutely unworkable. It is positively farcical for us to say that an officer shall do something which cannot be carried out in practice.
– I think it would meet the wishes of Senator Glassey and others, if the words “ doctor’s certificate “ were transposed to the end of the amendment, and the words “ where practicable or procurable “ added. I agree with Senator Glassey that there are instances where it would be almost impossible for an officer to get a doctor’s certificate when it was required, lt is very judicious to provide that a doctor’s certificate shall be got wherever he is available.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I ask leave of the committee to alter my amendment so as to make it read -
And, in case of illness, may, at any time, grant leave of absence not exceeding eighteen days, a doctor’s certificate to be produced where procurable.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - Does the amendment mean that eighteen days during the year shall be the maximum leave, or does it mean that eighteen days’ leave may be granted periodically, and that such leave shall not interfere with the ordinary annual leave 1
– No ; it says “ at any time.”
– That is all right.
– To clear up the point which has been , raised by Senator Glassey it would be as well if Senator Smith were to adopt the words used just above, “for any period or periods,” because the amendment, as it stands now, would mean one period not exceeding eighteen days, which is not intended.
– The words “at any time” override that.
– We have it provided in the amendment that the chief officer -
May at any time grant leave of absence not exceeding eighteen days.
If we look at the earlier part of the clause we find it provided that the chief officer -
May grant to every officer of his department leave of absence for recreation for any period or periods not exceeding in the whole eighteen days in each year.
It is to be regretted that the same phraseology has not been used in the amendment. The alteration in regard to the doctor’s certificate will rid the amendment of a good deal of its objectionable character, but I think it still necessitates an alteration of the clause, so as to make the three months’ leave that may be granted by the Minister inclusive of any leave granted by the chief officer.
– Not in case of sick leave?
– Yes. Three months is the extent of leave in case of illness which may be allowed by the Minister. The Governor-General may grant 12 months’ leave of absence, and if the amendment be carried, that provision will have to be altered in the same way, so as to make the leave for twelve months inclusive of the leave granted by the chief officer. I do not think the amendment is necessary, because what it provides for has always been done and will still be done by tho chief officer. In cases of illness he will grant leave, and send up his recommendation to the Minister, who, if necessary, will allow that leave to extend up to three months. The GovernorGeneral may further extend it up to twelve months. I do not think the amendment would have any useful effect, while it would necessitate several alterations in the clause.
– I hope that the amendment will not be carried. The clause before the committee goes quite far enough in protecting civil servants and granting to them what leave they require. It stands to reason that whenever a man is ill he will be granted leave, and it is not necessary to insert a provision to that effect in an Act of Parliament. There are thousands of establishments in which employes are treated humanely without any Act of Parliament. It does not require a prophet to say that inthis Bill we are grossly over-legislating. If Miss Shaw, of the Times, were to come back to Australia she would not say that the Australian loves to lean against a post, but rather that he cannot exist unless he sits in an arm-chair and is propped up with pillows. If an officer is ill for three or four weeks he may want an additional three or four weeks’ leave in order to recover his strength, and he will get it. If an officer were suffering from typhoid, for example, he would be sent away for three or four weeks when convalescent in order to enable him to completely regain his health. There is no need for any Act of Parliament requiring that to be done. It would be done as an act of humanity. But supposing an officer sprains his ankle or suffers from an illness which does not reduce his strength, does any one mean to contend that when he recovers he should be able to say - “ I have been away three or four weeks, and my fellow employes have been over-worked in consequence, but I am entitled to eighteen days’ leave for recreation, and I am going to have it “ 1 A man’s own sense of right would deter him from asking for additional leave if he did not require it in order to regain his health.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland).- This is a very serious matter.
– Let it go.
– The honorable and learned senator’s assertions arc too serious for me to allow them to pass unnoticed. The honorable and learned senator has just said that we are over-legislating in this Bill, although it will affect over 11,000 people. I contend that there is no over-legislation in it, and that we ought to take care to protect our officers. Sometimes it happens that an officer takes ill suddenly, and it should be left to the chief officer to grant him leave of absence. Whether the leave should be for eighteen days or not is another matter. I think it is excessive, but to leave the matter to the head of the department, without requiring a doctor’s certificate, is only fair.
– A doctor’s certificate is unnecessary.
– There are officers, and officers in charge of departments, and I do not think that some of them should have it left in their hands to determine whether or not leave should be granted. I remember an incident which occurred to myself when I was in the Postal department in Brisbane, which will serve as an illustration. I learned one day that my family, consisting of no less than nine persons, would arrive in Brisbane by steamer from Bundaberg very early in the morning, at a time when I was not expecting them. I went to the head of the department and asked for leave in order that I might meet my family and take them to some place where they could remain for the day. That leave was refused, however, although .it was requested in a case of emergency. Certainly it was not a case of illness, but it was equally as important, and I contend that it would be monstrously unfair to leave the granting or refusing of leave to the mere caprice of an officer who might have a grudge against a man. I only cite my own experience in order to show that a request for leave may be refused in an unwarrantable way, and that it is not wise to leave these matters entirely in the hands of any officer. I hope that Senator Smith will press his amendment.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I move.
That the following new sub-clause be inserted : - “ (1a.) The Minister may grant to any officer leave oE absence for recreation for any period not exceeding the number oi days’ leave of absence for recreation which the chief officer might have granted to such officer during his service under this section, not so granted by the chief officer. “
The object of the amendment is to allow leave of absence to accumulate. There are -officers employed in portions of the Commonwealth so remote that if they are only to get eighteen days’ leave of absence in the year it would be of no use to them, because it would take them more than that time to travel to the Capital or to the coast. I desire to -provide for accumulated leave in such cases. In cases also where officers desire to visit other States of the Commonwealth, eighteen days’ leave is quite insufficient. We shall be doing no injustice to the department by allowing civil servants, provided that the consent of the chief officer is obtained, to forego their leave in any one year that they may have the advantage of twice the term in the following year. The system has prevailed in some of the States, and as the concession will only be permissive at the discretion of the omer , officer, a number of civil servants will not be able to say that they will not take a holiday this year so that they may have an extended holiday next year, and in that way interfere with the proper working of departments.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I approve of this amendment, and I assume that the Minister also approves of it, but I desire to say that I think the Minister, in drafting this Bill, might have considered that persons living in the move remote parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly in the tropics, are entitled to a longer leave of absence than persons living in Brisbane and the Southern States. They might, I think, be reasonably granted an extension of time in addition to the time it takes them to travel to the coast.
– That is expressly provided for in sub-clause, (3), under which the period of leave may be- increased at the discretion of the chief officer.
– So far so good, but I think the Minister might have provided in this Bill that persons employed in remote parts, for instance, of the Central district in Queensland, should receive one fortnight’s more leave than persons living in the South, and persons employed in the North should receive a fortnight more than persons living in the Central districts. That would be a fair arrangement, and if that spirit operates, as I trust it will when the regulations are being framed, it will be a great boon to persons living in remote and tropical portions of the Commonwealth. I think that the utmost consideration should be shown to the officers who have to live at Birdsville, Cammoweal, Boulia, and other like places, which no doubt could be mentioned in other States of the Commonwealth.
– I agree with Senator Glassey in hoping that effect will be given to his wishes in the way he indicates, but the honorable senator must see that what he proposes could not be done by any ruleof -thumb method, for the reason that a man stationed 350 miles from the coast might be, for all practical purposes, less remote than a man stationed only 50 or 100 miles from the coast. So much depends upon accessibility by vail, or other means of conveyance. I trust, that under sub-clause (3) every case will be’ dealt with on its merits. That is the intention, and I have no doubt that in every case the time it will take for a man to get from his station- to the coast will be taken into account. I have no objection to the amendment proposed by Senator Smith. In most of the States, it has been the practice to allow accumulated leave, though, in some cases, it has been abused. The recreation leave is intended to enable a man to keep, or perhaps, to regain his health, in order that he may be able to perform his work efficiently, and it is very undesirable that officers should be allowed to hoard up their leave and run all sorts of risks of injury to their constitution merely in order to be able to get such an amount of accumulated leave as will give them a very long holiday. I have had cases brought under my notice in which officers have seriously injured their health by declining to take their leave as it falls due year by year. On the other hand I admit that it is very desirable that officers in remote portions of the Commonwealth should be permitted to forgo their recreation leave for one or two years that they may have sufficient time to get the utmost advantage from it. The amendment proposed leaves the matter in the discretion of the Minister, and I have no doubt that in its working it would mean that the Minister would grant the concession so long as it was not abused, and would allow the whole of the leave to which an officer was entitled during the period of his service.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 68 -
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - ‘4. Leave of absence on account of illness shall be granted upon the same terms and conditions, and for the same periods as for recreation as provided in the preceding section, but such leave on account of illness shall not be reckoned nor included in any grant of leave for recreation, nor shall there be any deduction nor reduction of salary in respect thereof.
It would, I think, be manifestly unfair to deny to a member of the service his recreation leave on the ground that he had had sick leave.
– It could not be done under this clause.
– There is no provision in the Bill as it stands that sickleave shall not be reckoned to absorb recreation leave. If the Minister says it is provided for, it must be in an exceedingly indefinite manner, and my proposal is to make it perfectly clear that the two things are not to overlap, and that temporary leave on. account of illness shall be granted in the same manner and under the same authority as recreation leave. Surely that is not a proposal which requires much argument in support of it, because it is intended only to make clear what I believe is the intention of the Ministry in submitting the clause in its present form.
– I agree with what the honorable senator has said, but I think the amendment is unnecessary, because in the Bill the two matters of sick leave and recreation leave are treated independently, and are dealt with in separate clauses. The sick leave would not influence the granting of recreation leave. I do not think it should, nor has it done so in the past. I have never known a case where the granting of recreation leave has been influenced by the amount of sick leave the officer may have had.
– Senator Neild’s proposal can do no harm, and I believe it to be advisable that such a provision should be inserted in the Bill. Clause 67 makes the granting of leave of absence simply permissive, and there is nothing that gives a civil servant the right to have eighteen days’ leave of absence in the year. In Western Australia there are a number of civil servants, especially in the department administered by the Postmaster-General, who have been for five years without any leave of absence whatever, and who have little chance of securing the accumulated leave of absence that is due to them. I am aware that it is impossible for the accumulated leave to be given to those men, because to grant leave to so many officers for so long a time, would disorganise the service. But if Senator Neild’s proposition is carried, it will make it certain that leave of absence granted on account of sickness will not infringe upon recreation leave.
– The cases referred to by Senator Smith, where leave of absence has accumulated, have occurred because it has been impossible to find relieving officers in sufficient numbers. It is one of the things in connexion with my department that I deeply regret, and with which I am much dissatisfied. I know that the refusal of leave of absence is happening, and the only reason is that it is impossible to get sufficient telegraph operators. We are so exceedingly short of operators that men cannot be spared. A proposal has been made that we should lower the standard of qualification so as to secure more men, and thus, allow our operators to go on leave, but that has been objected to by the department on the ground that it would be detrimental to the interests of the service. Senator Neild’s amendment can have no useful purpose. Under clause 68 the power to give leave is permissive. As- a matter of practice, the whole period of eighteen days is given whenever an officer can be relieved. If it were mandator)-, I could understand this new amendment being proposed. If it were said that every officer must have eighteen days’ leave, there might be some reason for inserting a provision to the effect that the eighteen days should be entirely irrespective of any sick leave. But seeing that it is permissive, what is the use of inserting this clause, which will simply amount to a direction to the chief officer not to take into account the fact of a man having been away on sick leave 1 That has not been done in the past, and will not be done. I know of no case where a man’s recreation leave has been shortened on account of his being away on sick leave.
– May I ask Senator Neild whether he really desires to see leave of absence granted for purposes of recreation shortly after sick leave has been granted, without any reference to what the illness was 1 It may have been one that has not in any way interfered with the mental or physical condition of the clerk or officer. It may have been an illness brought on entirely by his own neglect or bad habits, or may have been accentuated by hia irregular living. This is not the thing to put in an Act of Parliament. If we were to give the Postmaster-General full power to make regulations as to leave, those regulations could be altered and amended, and applied to fit the circumstances of each case. Senator Smith has undoubtedly brought under our notice cases of hardship, but they do not necessitate a clause in an Act of Parliament. The hardship exists in spite of an Act of Parliament. To meet those cases the Postmaster-General ought to employ relieving officers to take the places of operators where the climate is bad, and leave has been refused for a number of years. The work of a department must be . paramount to leave of absence for recreation. It appears to me to be idle to provide in this clause that notwithstanding the nature of the illness, or what the circumstances and conditions may be, an officer shall be in a position to demand under an Act of Parliament that he shall have three weeks leave of absence. The Bill is framed on most liberal and generous lines, so far as the civil servants are concerned. I do not object to that. I am glad to see it. I am sure there are many civil servants who conscientiously do not ask for their three weeks’ leave every year, because they know perfectly well that they could not be spared. In banks and private establishments numbers of clerks do not ask and do not get the leave that is due to them, because being good and efficient servants they make the work of their lives paramount to the pleasure of their lives. The amendment is certainly not required.
– I am aware that the question of leave of absence has given rise to a deal of dissatisfaction, especially in connexion with the Post and Telegraph department. I am told that there are in Queensland dozens of men who have been unable to get their leave of absence, al. though they have been waiting for it for months. While I admire, as much as it is possible for Senator Dobson to do, the devotion of some men to duty, I recognise that if certain periods of leave of absence are not granted officers cannot efficiently perform their work. The work of a telegraph operator, for instance, makes serious demands upon the nervous system. Perhaps Senator Dobson is not aware of that. It is not nearly such a healthy occupation as that of a lawyer, for instance. I believe that the legal profesion is one of the healthiest in the world. Lawyers have long holidays, and enjoy themselves to the top of their bent, at the expense of the foolish people who employ them. They should have some sympathy for poor telegraph operators who are cooped up in unhealthy rooms, working in an occupation which, as I have said, makes serious demands upon the nervous system. There ought to be no difficulty about giving these men leave. Senator Dobson appears to be very anxious in respect to leave of absence coming after sick leave. He thinks that a man’s sickness should be inquired into before recreation leave is granted to him. He has mentioned irregular habits and indiscretion as a cause of illness. I will tell the honorable and learned senator one thing which I believe gives rise to more disease than any other, and that is the greed of landlordism. I do not know whether Senator Dobson is a landlord or not, but certainly the insanitary condition of most of our large towns gives rise to illhealth far more than irregularity of living. I should not have mentioned this except that Senator Dobson seems to be very anxious about whether a man has taken an overdose of lobster salad in the evening, or has smoked too much, or has got drunk, or eaten too much Tasmanian mutton which I’ believe is apt to make a man sick, although it is very good taken in moderation. The lot of these civil servants is by no means a rosy one. Three weeks’ leave is little enough in all conscience. Let us give them an opportunity of recuperating. The leave ought never be allowed to accumulate more than two years running. Let a man have six weeks’ leave in two years, even if he does not care to take three weeks in every year. That holiday should be secured to him beyond all doubt, and it is not at present. In Queensland there are dozens of men known to me who have been waiting for months for their holiday leave, and cannot get it, for the reason that telegraph operators appear to be scarce. I do not know why. I suppose it is because the pay is not adequate for the work. In other departments of the service there are more men than are wanted, but in this department it appears that there isalways a scarcity of men able and willing to do the work. There is one certain remedy for that - pay them sufficiently, and the department will get a sufficient number of them.
– While I should like to make sure that civil servants who have had to take sick leave should be entitled to their eighteen days’ recreation leave, I do not think that Senator Neild’s proposal is a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. In the amendment there are some words which are too sweeping. It says -
Leave of absence on account of illness shall be granted on the same terms and conditions and for the same periods as for recreation.
Supposing an officer is ill, is he to be granted eighteen days leave of absence, which is the term of leave for recreation? He may be fit to go to work in a week, but, according to the amendment, if you are to grant leave for the same periods, he must be granted leave for three weeks.
– In the aggregate.
– He may want more than eighteen days in the aggregate.
– These words cover it. If the honorable senator will look at clause 67, he will see that there are various terms for which leave may be granted.
– But the leave for recreation is set down at eighteen days, and it may be extended by the Minister. It is a mistake to say that the period of sick leave shall be the same as the period of recreation, when it may not be required. If those words were struck out of the amendment, it would have all the effect which is required, because sick leave would then be given for as long as was necessary, and we should insure that it would not be taken out of the recreation period.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clause 69 (Leave without pay).
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I rise to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is perfectly clear that if an officer has eighteen months’ leave of absence on account of sickness it will count as service when his superannuation allowance or pension is calculated, supposing that he is entitled to one ? It seems to me that it would. The point was raised in the other House, but I did not quite see how it was settled. If there is any doubt about it I think that the rights of civil servants who unfortunately have been ill ought to be safeguarded.
Clause agreed to.
When an officer has continued in the public service at least twenty years, or in the case of an officer who attained the age of 30 years before being admitted into the public service has continued therein for at least ten years, and has not been reduced for misconduct or deprived of leave of absence, the Governor-General may grant tohim on the recommendation of the commissioner leave of absence for a period not exceeding twelve months, of which six months may be on full pay and six months may be on half pay ; but for such period of absence such officer shall not be entitled to receive any addition to his rate of pay.
– We heard some remarks about economy here last evening, and I rise to ask whether the Government have fully inquired into the cost of giving effect to this provision. It seems to me rather extravagant to grant six months’ leave on full pay after a man has served ten years in some cases, and twenty years in others.
– It would be impossible to have any statistics on the subject because the expense of the clause must depend on the extent to which it is availed of by the officers. It contemplates twenty years’ service, which is a long time.
– It contemplates ten years’ service in one case.
– It contemplates ten years’ service in one case, and twenty years’ in another.
– Surely that is too short?
– I do not know why, after a man has served ten years, he should not be entitled to furlough.
– Twelve months’ leave?
– Six months’ leave on full pay, and six months’ on half-pay. It will be equivalent to nine months’ so far as pay is concerned. It is liberal.
– I do not think that any one can accuse me of wishing to be illiberal towards civil servants, but I think this provision is too liberal. We might very well meet the case by reducing the leave of absence on full pay to three months, and the leave of absence on half-pay to three months, or even giving a term of six months on half -pay. We should have some consideration for those who provide the money. I do not believe that any fair-minded civil servant will cavil if we alter this liberal provision.
Amendment (by Senator Dobson) proposed -
That the word “ten,” line 5, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “fifteen.”
-I hope that honorable senators will leave the clause as it is. At first sight it may appear to be very generous ; but when it is closely examined it will be found that it is intended as a reward for good conduct and faithful service. To get this privilege an officer must have acted up to his duty in a most particular manner. I think that, as an inducement to a public officer to be faithful to the trust imposed in him, the clause will have a beneficial effect. There is another light in which I often look at these periods of long leave to public servants. . If a number of public servants are for years confined to the State in which their duties lie, they get conservative in their ideas and old-fashioned so far as the ways of the world are concerned. But if they get leave on full pay, such as is here proposed, and they travel, they are bound to gain such information as will be beneficial to the people of the Commonwealth. I have found that public servants, particularly those in responsible positions, do not get half enough opportunities to travel, and see how things are done elsewhere, and return, not only to do likewise, but to improve upon what has been done there.For that reason, I think the clause should be left as it is. Ten years may be a short period, but then the privilege is to be confined to an officer who joined the service after he was 30 years of age. At 40 years of age a man will be ripe enough to benefit by the experience gained in travelling and observing things. As the clause stands it is beneficial to the public servant, but the experience he will gain during his leave will recoup all the expenditure to the Commonwealth.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I am very sorry that I cannot agree with Senator McGregor. I quite appreciate the value of the advantages of travelling. Probably it would be a very good thing for us if we could all travel more and see more. If we get running up and down the face of the earth, as some honorable senator has remarked, it may unsettle us for the more serious business of life. After all we have all to work for our living ; while some are travelling others are working to enable them to travel. Senator McGregor has pointed out the advantages of permitting our higher civil servants to travel. We could secure al] those advantages without allowing a civil servant to leave the Commonwealth. If we desire to obtain an intimate knowledge of the postal business of the United Kingdom, for example, all that we have to do is to send a special commissioner home. He can bring back all information that our officials require, and we can do the same with regard to the postal system of the United States, and of every continental country. As Senator O’Keefe remarked, while I am quite willing to deal liberally with the service - as I believe all my votes on this Bill testify - there is a limit beyond which I am z.ot inclined to go. We are here primarily to represent the taxpayer, the man who has to find the cash, to pay civil service salaries, and provide for these extended leaves of absence. Where is the ordinary taxpayer who could afford, even after twenty years of hard unceasing toil, to take a holiday of twelve months 1 I venture to say that there is not one in 10,000. The cry has gone out all over the Commonwealth that civil servants are being placed in a position so much Superior to that of other workers in the country, that it is almost impossible to get any man to settle down to the ordinary avocations of life. Men are continually, reaching out either for a position in the railway service, the police force, or the telegraph department : in some way or other they want to be gathered under the wing of the State. I recognise that the success of some of the experiments - for I consider that they are not more than experiments yet - depends upon their being worked out economically. If we go in for extravagant expenditure at one end, we are bound to cause distrust at the other ; people will say that this kind of Government is costing them too much, that they cannot afford to keep it up, and must have a change. They will say that the civil servants are placed in a position so much superior to their own that they cannot tolerate it. While I am willing, as I have said, to deal liberally with the service, I am not inclined to go the length of this clause. Indeed, I think it might very well be omitted. It provides that men who have been twenty years in the service, who have had their three weeks’ holiday every year, and who have had their sick leave probably - and we must remember that public servants are not slow to avail themselves of this leave - are after all this to have an extended holiday. Many a time I have gone to work when I was really not fit for it. The average public servant, however, does not do that. Immediately he feels the slightest pain he stops at home, sends a doctor’s certificate to the office, and receives’ his pay. I do not begrudge it to him But after these men have had the holidays described in the clause, we propose to make them a present of six months’ holiday on full pay, and six months on half-pay. That is more than I am willing to grant, having regard to the taxpayer. In the case of a civil servant earning £500 a year, this clause would make him a present of £250 for the first six months’ leave* and £125 for the second, or a total of £375. If the committee is not inclined to negative the clause, I will support any proposition to extend the term at the end of which this leave shall be given, and also to reduce the period of leave itself.
– I hope that the Minister will accept Senator Dobson’s amendment. It seems to me that in this clause we are proposing to allow a person who joins the service at 30 years of age twice the advantage given to a man who joins at twenty years.
– Why ?
– The clause, unless amended as proposed by Senator Dobson, will offer a premium to those who enter the service at 30 years of age. I want to see our service manned by young men at the start. Much as I desire that liberality shall be displayed in these matters, I would prefer to see a further amendment moved omitting the words -
Or in the case of an officer who attained the age of 30 years before being admitted into the public service has continued therein for at least ten years.
The clause would then provide that an officer should be entitled to this leave after he had continued in the service for at least twenty years. It would make no difference between an officer who entered the service at 30 years of age, and one who entered at twenty. I am not afraid of being considered illiberal in making this suggestion. I was fourteen years in one service without receiving an)’ leave, and remained 25 years in it without obtaining six months’ leave. If a man is in fair health, and receives a holiday of a month once a year, I do not think any more is necessarily required.
– The reasons advanced by Senator Walker should not deter us from doing our duty. Why should we refuse to do what is right, because the honorable senator was not fairly dealt with as an employed I remember when ten hours constituted the regular day’s work in the States ; now we have the eight hours system. There is no reason why we should compel civil servants to work ten hours a day, because we had to work for that number of hours every day. As for striking out the clause, as suggested by Senator Stewart, I think that would be a. mistake. I apprehend that this provision applies to every man in the Commonwealth service, no matter what his position may be?
– To all public servants.
– We all know that at present the granting, of leave of absence, in order that officers may visit Europe or travel round the world, is confined entirely to those holding high positions in the service. The officers lower down in the. scale never have an opportunity of undertaking one of these trips. Honorable senators representing Victoria will know that, during the last three ye’n-s. three, highly-paid officers in the State service have been sent round the world by the Railway department, and I do not know that I have yet seen a report published from them. One was the electrical engineer, Mr. Holmes. He had a report somewhere, but when it was asked for in the Assembly, I believe, the reply was given that it was a confidential report furnished to the Minister, and we never saw it. Then Mr. Norman, the Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, took a trip round the world, and I do not know that he has furnished a report. His expenses were paid, and he was allowed full pay while on leave. Finally, Mr. Mathieson, the Commissioner for railways, travelled round the world. He did not receive £375 during his six months’ leave, but £1,750, that being half of one year’s salary, and all his expenses were paid.
– Mr. Outtrim, the Deputy Postmaster-General, also went away on a tour.
– We do not hear of any officers who receive £200 or £250 a year being allowed to take those trips.
– That is the result of removing the public service from political influence.
– There may be something in that. Some provision of the kind should be made in the Bill, so that every officer shall have a perfect right to obtain this leave, and not receive it merely as a concession or as a favour. I agree with the clause. I think that a man who has been in the service for twenty years is entitled to a long leave of absence. Presumably a man would not receive it unless he deserved it. If he deserves it, he is the man to send for a trip round the world. If he is a man who by his integrity, his industry, and his attention to duty, has earned that leave of absence, he is the man who is likely to take notice of matters, during his travels, that will be of advantage to the branch of the service in which he is employed.
– In order to test the feeling of the committee, I wish to move, if Senator Dobson will withdraw his amendment -
That the words “orin the case of an officer who attains the age of 30 years before being admitted into the public service, has continued therein for at least ten years,” be omitted.
No distinction would then be made between a. man who entered the service at 30 years of age, and one who entered at 20.
-*-I have pleasure in asking for leave to withdraw my amendment. As a matter of fa-:t I thought of proposing the amendment just outlined by Senator Ewing, but I did not think the committee would consent to it. I believe it is the right thing to do.
Amendment by leave withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Ewing) proposed.
That the words “orin the case of an officer who attained the age of 30 years before being admitted into the public service, has continued therein for at least” be omitted.
– The object of this clause is to afford officers of the service an opportunity to travel when they have reached what may bc called the mid-period of life. The words proposed to be struck out were intended to meet the case of an officer who, after working for a number of years, attains the age at which it is considered he would reap the advantages of travel, and when his future health and usefulness might depend on his obtaining an extended leave. The only difference that will be made by striking out these words is, that an officer who enters the service at 30 years of age will be 50 instead of 40 years of age when he obtains his leave.
– And quite right, too.
– That may or may not be so. If it is thought that men should obtain this holiday when about midway in their lives, it is desirable that the clause should remain as it stands. As a general principle I should like to see the service recruited from the ranks of young men. It is a very desirable principle, but it cannot always be observed. We must remember that this is a new form of Government, which is just being initiated, and although in course of time the practice will spring up of employing officers from their youth, it may not be possible at the start. Indeed it must happen at the outset, that a number of our officers will have attained to some considerable age before they join the service. We had that fact in view when we inserted these words in the clause.
– Does the honorable and learned senator refer to the transferred officers ?
– No; their time of service under the State Governments will count. I am referring only to new officers. It may happen that it will be necessary to fill up some positions by appointing men who have attained the age of 20, 25, or 30 years of age. The question is whether it is desirable to allow them this leave of absence when they have been in the service ten years. I leave the matter in the hands of the committee.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - The Postmaster-General has raised a point which I had not caught sight of. Certain officers have recently joined the . Federal Audit Department, and they have had ten or fifteen years’ service in a State, and though I am not prepared to say what holidays they were entitled to in the State, it is possible that they were not half as liberal as those here proposed.
– They were not transferred, and they gave up their rights.
– If an officer, who has been working for fifteen years in New South Wales, Tasmania, or any other State without leave of absence, now joins the Commonwealth service, I think his service in the State ought to count. If this clause was put in with that special object, I have not the same objection to it as I had before. I think that, under the circumstances, we had better adopt Senator Swing’s amendment, and add another subclause to say that service in a State shall, be reckoned as part of the twenty years’ service.
– Is not that so under the Constitution ?
– Why should that be so? Supposing a man enters the service of the Commonwealth at 35 years of age, and has previously passed a long period of service with some private firm or institution, should we do the same thing in his case and count his service with a private firm as Commonwealth service ? We know that in the case of transferred officers, where a number of departments have simply been taken over and are being run together, the officers retain all their rights, but if we take a man from the railway department of a State, or from some department which has not been transferred, and admit him into the public service of the Commonwealth, he brings no rights with him, but comes into the service in the same way as any outsider would come in.
– Then we had better make it fifteen years ?
– Then it would only be the difference between ten and five, and the only question would be whether it would be desirable to give a man this holiday at 40 or 45 years of age.
– I draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to clause 61 of this Bill, which says -
Forthe purposes of this Act service, in the public, railway, or other service of a State by any person who becomes an officer in the public service of the Commonwealth shall be reckoned as service in the public service of the Commonwealth.
– That is the very thing we want.
– There is no mention of the transferred services in that clause, and under it the State service of the gentlemen who have recently been appointed to the Audit department of the Commonwealth will count as service in the public service of the Commonwealth.
– I point out to the Postmaster-General that clause 61 of this Bill seems to have been drafted explicitly to carry out section 84 of the Constitution, which provides that any officer who is at the establishment of the Commonwealth in the public service of the State, and is transferred to the public service of the Commonwealth, shall have the same rights as if he had been an officer of a department transferred to the Commonwealth. It seems, therefore, to me that the objection which I thought at the time was properly raised by Senator Dobson is one which we need take no notice of, because it appears that the rights not only of officers of transferred departments, but of all officers who may be taken from any State department and admitted into the public service of the Commonwealth, are preserved by the Constitution, and also by the Bill we are now dealing with.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I wish to know exactly where we are. Will every officer of the ‘Commonwealth after twenty years service, nineteen of which may have been put in in one of the States, be entitled to this leave of absence 1 Suppose a man has been fifteen years in the Queensland Postal service, which is taken over by the Commonwealth, will he at the end of five years more, when he will have completed twenty years’ service, be entitled to twelve months’ leave of absence?
– Apparently yes, as I see upon reading clause 61 that his service in the State is to count. I do not think that is provided for under the Constitution Act, because the Constitution Act speaks distinctly of an officer transferred, and an officer who leaves a State department which has not been taken over by the Commonwealth to join the public service of the Commonwealth is not a transferred officer.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– Senator Pearce has rightly drawn my attention to clause 61, which expressly says that service in any department of a State shall be reckoned.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- This new light thrown upon the clause makes it important that we should give it serious consideration before we pass it. I was under the impression that it would only apply to new officers joining the public service of the Commonwealth. We ough to pause before accepting a responsibility of this character. There are 11,000officers in the Commonwealth service, and a very large proportion of them must have served well on to twenty years in the various States. In the course of a few years we may find ourselves with quite a little army of men demanding their twelve months’ leave of absence.
– The honorable senator will see that it is at the discretion of the Governor-General to grant it.
– Unless the provision is intended to apply to the humblest, as well as to the most exalted member of the service, it should not be here. I am not sure that it should be in the Bill at all. I would not have the same objection if it applied only to the Commonwealth service, but if service in the States is also to be reckoned it becomes a question of whether we can stand it. I am inclined now to vote against the clause. It is all very well for us to say that we will give liberal terms to the servants of the Commonwealth. I am quite willing to do so, and I think we have been extremely liberal to.them. So far as I am able to gather, the complaint of the taxpayer in various portions of the Commonwealth is that we have been too liberal to them. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council said last night, we do not know how our revenue will “pan” out, or what position we may be in in a few years. I think we should be content with the liberalprovisions we have already made in favour of the Commonwealth service. I ask honorable senators to consider . this matter seriously before they commit the Commonwealth to what may possibly involve a very large expenditure in the future.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - In moving this amendment, I do not suggest for a moment that I consent to the rest of the provisions of this clause, or that I will necessarily vote for the clause if the modification I propose is carried. It does seem to me that in giving the civil servants eighteen days in each year, besides public holidays, we are giving them very fair holidays indeed. If they choose to allow their leave to accumulate, they can get an extensive holiday in the course of a very few years. Why, in addition, to that, we should give them six months on full pay, and six months on half-pay, I am at a loss to understand. I point out to the committee that it is not the rank and file of the service who will get this concession, but men who are in high positions, and receiving big salaries, and who can well afford to go for their trips, and take a holiday at their own expense. In Western Australia it has been such officers as the Colonial Architect and the Under-Secretary for Public Works, men receiving £1,000 and £1,500 a year, who have received this concession. The man who gets £1,000 or £1,500 a year can allow his leave to accumulate, and, in that way, get six months’ leave on full pay, if he chooses. I agree with Senator Stewart that we can overdo this kind of thing. All that we are here to do is justice to the civil servants, and we do not wish to create billets in the public service, which cannot, for their comfort or pay, be excelled by any other positions in the Commonwealth.
– When I interjected, during the course of the speech made by the PostmasterGeneral, that he was wrong in his contention that officers recently taken into the Commonwealth service from any State department were not to be treated in the same way as transferred officers, I was quite clear that it was provided for in the Bill. We have had a Minister in charge of a Bill arguing contrary to its provisions, but we are all liable to make mistakes; andas the Minister has acknowledged, his mistake that point is settled. As to whether it would not be better to strike out the whole provision, I would call attention to theposition of civil servants taken over by the Common wealth from theState of South Australia. Under the South Australian Civil Service Act provision is made that, after twenty years’ service, an officer is entitled to a holiday of six months on full pay. A number of officers have been taken over by the Commonwealth with that right, and they are entitled to claim that holiday whether we pass this clause or not. The question now arises whether, in future, we shall continue to make ourselves liable to those who are admitted into the service of the Commonwealth from departments of the various States that have not been transferred. A similar right in regard toholidays has been inforce in other States besides South Australia. It appears to me that it is only fair and right on our part to treat our civil servants, at all events, as well as the States have treated theirs. I know that the six months’ leave is a great advantage, and although many men whose means are small do not go abroad, yet many of them visit the other States, and endeavour to pick up wrinkles which will be of use to them in their daily work. It is a wise provision to give an officer six months holiday, on full pay, at the end of twenty years. In South Australia we give them a further six months without pay if it is asked for. We treat our civil servants better than any private establishment, and it is quite right that we should do so, because the State ought to be a model employer. But at the same time we should not enter into unnecessary extravagance. We must remember that we have to look after the expenditure that is raised from the people, and that it is our duty to see that the public money is wisely expended. I shall, support such an alteration as will make the provision of this Bill similar to the South Australian provision in this respect.
– By mixing up this Bill with the Constitution, which, in itself, is perfectly clear, we are getting into a hopeless muddle. There are two classes of civil servants - those transferred and those newlyappointed. Clause 61 deals with transferred departments. It does not relate in any way to officers who are not, properly speaking, transferred, but only to officers who have been in the service of the States, and who are actually transferred to the Commonwealth. If this Bill departs from the Constitution it will be ultra vires. The Constitution in section 84 provides that -
When any department of the public service of a State becomes transferred to the Commonwealth all officers of the department shall become subject to the control of the Executive Government of the Commonwealth. . . . Any such officer who is not retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time, and on the pension or retiring allowance, which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth wore a continuation of his service with the State.
We have no power over those. That is the law, and we cannot alter it.
Such pension or retiring allowance shall be paid, to him by the Commonwealth ; but the State shall pay to the Commonwealth a part thereof, to be calculated on the proportion which his term of service with the State bears to his whole, term of service, and for the purpose of the calculation his salary shall be taken to be that paid to him by the State at the time of the transfer.
Any officer, who is at the establishment of the Commonwealth, in the public service of a State, and who is, by consent of the Government of the State, with the advice of the Executive Council thereof, transferred to the public service of the Commonwealth, shall have the same rights as if he had been an officer of a department transferred to the Commonwealth, and were retained in the service of the Commonwealth.
There is the law. Nothing which we can do will alter it. The law is simply that as far as concerns transferred departments, or officers taken over from any State into the service of the Commonwealth, those officers are to be in identically the same position as regards pensions, retiring allowances, and other rights, as if they had been retained in the service of the original State. Those rights are to be preserved by the Commonwealth, and so far as money payment is concerned, to be liquidated by the Commonwealth the State paying a proportion of the amount. Therefore we have nothing to do with the rights of officers taken over from any State. We have only to ‘deal with the comparatively few men who will be taken on under the new arrangement. Consequently we have been talking this afternoon about something which is already determined by the Constitution. All that we can possibly legislate about in this connexion is the rights of the new men who are taken into the service. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that he should either postpone this clause, or amend it to make it extend exclusively to departments not transferred, and officers not taken over from any State. That being so, the ambit of the provision is very much less. All the officers of the transferred departments are out of it and provided for. All officers taken over from the States are dealt with. All that we have left are the officers who are to be appointed by the Commonwealth. Upon what terms are they to be appointed ? To give them after twenty years six months for relaxation is exceedingly liberal. It is an advantage which few of us have had who have had to work for ourselves all our lives. There ought to be no premium to persons who come into the service late in life. On the contrary, we want them to come in early in life ; not at a period when they will have acquired methods and habits of working and living which perhaps have to be unlearned in order that they may take up a new class of work.
But all I am anxious about is that we should not do in this clause what we have no power to do. We should see that it does not apply to officers taken over from the States, but that it merely provides that the new officers shall be entitled to extended leave of absence after twenty years’ service and not before.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - I do not’ agree with Senator Downer in the construction he has placed upon the section of the Constitution which he has read. I believe Senator Pearce’s view to be correct. There are three classes of civil servants .with whom we have to deal. First, there are the civil servants who are in the true sense transferred from the States to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Constitution provides for them. We have no power to interfere with their rights. Then there is a second class, who have not been transferred from the State service to the Commonwealth service, but who have been taken over by the Commonwealth service from the States. They have not been “ transferred “ within the meaning of that term as used in the Constitution. Then we come to the officers appointed by the Federal Government itself. So that there are not, as Senator Downer seems to contemplate, only two classes of civil servants to be dealt with. There are first the transferees ; secondly, the men who are not transferees in the sense of being employed in a transferred department, but who have been taken over from the State services; and thirdly, there are the new appointees.
– We save the rights of the second class by this Bill.
– But Senator Downer says we have no right to interfere with any except the third class. It seems to me that clause 61 is quite intra vires. I submit that the view Senator Pearce took originally was correct, and that the term of service under a State of any officer taken over by the Commonwealth from a State does count under the provisions of this Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Ewing) agreed to.
That the words “ten years” (line 5) be omitted.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - We have had several expressions of opinion - and I think they are correct - that this Bill deals too liberally with civil servants when we have regard to our responsibility to the taxpayers. All I desire to do is to see the service one which men will desire to enter. I desire to uphold the dignity and honour of the service, to see every post fairly remunerated, but not to make the whole of the young men in the Commonwealth desirous of giving up private employment simply because the Commonwealth service is so much better. I do not think it is our duty to elevate our service so much above any other service. I understand, from Senator Playford, that in South Australia the Government grant an officer eight months’ leave on full pay. In Tasmania, the Government grant twelve months’ leave on half-pay, or six months on full pay. In order to cut down the generous provision here, but still, I think, to make it more generous than private firms are able to afford, I propose to move some amendments, to make the clause read as follows : -
The Governor-General in Council may grant twelve months’ leave of absence on half-pay, or six months on full pay.
In the first instance, I move -
That, after the word “months,” line 10, the words “ on half- pay or “ be inserted.
– Can I move another amendment, sir?
– What is it?
– The amendment I wish to move is to insert these words -
Of which three months may be on full pay and three months may be on half-pay.
– That will come in later.
– Now that we have dealt withthe other amendments and made the minimum period of service twenty years, this is giving to the officers who have come over from the State services something to whichthey have hot an absolute right. The Constitution secures to them all their accruing rights. This, I believe, is not a right, but a practice which practically they have enjoyed by statute. It is permissive, but it has always been granted and considered one of the conditions of service. We ought to legislate in such a way that transferred officers cannot be placed in a worse position than, they would have been in had they continued in the State service. I have been making some inquiries, but I have not statistics to show exactly what has been the practice in the several State Acts. In one State at least, the civil servants have for a long time enjoyed this privilege of getting twelve months’ leave, namely, six months on full pay and six months on half-pay. I ask the committee to pause before it alters this provision in such a way that the Government would not be able to give, to transferred officers the same amount of leave as they have had a right to expect, and do expect.
– That right is preserved.
– I question that. The Constitution protects them in all their rights, but it is very doubtful whether leave of absence, which may be granted or denied to them, is a right.
– Of course it is.
– The spirit of the Constitution is that they are not only to be preserved in their rights and privileges, but to receive as fail and generous treatment from the Commonwealth Government as they received from the State Government. Leave which may be granted maybe for a shorter period than is provided for here, but in order that no injustice may be done, there should be power to give leave to the full extent which had been given by the State Government.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - The Postmaster-General has just made a pretty little speech, but I think it contains a most pernicious and mischievous doctrine. His idea is that, on the question of leave of absence, you should take the most liberal law of the States and apply it to the whole Commonwealth .
– Bring them all up to the maximum.
SenatorDOBSON. - I havehad occasion to speak of this with reference to salaries, and I suppose weshall all have occasion to speak of it again. Does the Minister mean to say that, in every instance, in dealing with salaries in Estimates to come up here year after year, we are to pick out the highest salary paid to any particular part of the service in any one of the States, and make the maximum salary in that State apply to the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Is that an analogous case?
– Most certainly it is. If the Minister in charge of this Bill points out that every civil servant who is transferred has a right to suffer in no way, and that even in the matter of holidays and leave of absence you must take the most liberal provision you can find, and raise everyone up to its standard, then I submit that when you come to deal with their salaries you will have to do exactly the same thing. You will have to pick out the highest salary because it happens to be there, and the Commonwealth is to be dragged to the level of that State, and the other States, whether they can afford it or not, and without any regard to their financial position, are to be raised up to it. I hope that the Minister will consider the doctrine he has laid down. I think it is a most mischievous doctrine. If the people of the Commonwealth had once understood that this was the extravagant way in which we would deal with their money, I do not think we should have ever seen federation. What right or reason is there for picking out the maximum in every case, and making that the law for every one of the other five States? What about the three States that are badly off, and that will have a deficiency of revenue under the Customs Act ? Why should they be saddled with an expenditure which they cannot afford ? What we have to do is to make a fair and reasonable compromise. Take care, if you like to err on the side of generosity, to err on the side of making our Federal service a little better than the State service, but not to make it so much better that it exceeds anything we know of in five of the States. Let us do a right and fair thing, but do not let us have a Minister of the Crown laying it down that in every instance the most generous treatment in One State is to be the law for the whole Commonwealth. I prophesy that the Commonwealth cannot afford the expenditure which we are incurring under this Bill.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania).- While in most cases, during the consideration of this Bill, the political opinions of Senator Dobson and myself have been, as wide asunder as. the poles, on this occasion I agree with him. The clause as it first stood certainly seemed to me to err on the side of liberality. We have increased, from ten years to twenty years the term which an officer must serve before he can get leave of absence, and now Senator Dobson proposes that of that leave six months shall be on full pay. Senator Stewart has notified his intention to move a further amendment that three months shall be on full pay, and three months on half-pay. I prefer the amendment of Senator Dobson, because I think it is a very fair compromise, and will still make liberal provision for the civil service.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … 12
Noes … … 8
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Dobson) proposed -
That the words “ of which,” line 10, be omitted.
– I desire to move -
That the words “ three months may beon full pay and three months may be on half-pay “ be inserted after the word “which “ (line 10).
The clause will then provide for the granting of twelve months’ leave of absence, of which three months maybe on full pay and three months on half-pay.
– We have to test that, matter now. Senator Dobson’s amendment is to strike out the words “ of which.” If the honorable senator desires, to pursue his amendment, he will vote against that proposed by Senator Dobson.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- Before Senator Dobson’s amendment was put I inquired whether I should be in order in moving, subsequently the amendment which I indicated, and I was told by you, Mr. Chairman, that. I would. It appears, however, that I cannot, proceed with it now.
– I preserved the honorable senator’s right as long as I could. Now that Senator Dobson’s amendment has been carried, the honorable senator must yield.
– I wish to move an amendment to still, further reduce the period during which full pay shall be granted by substituting the word “ three “ for “ six.”
– Very well, the honorable senator can do that.
– I move -
That the word “ six” (line 10) be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “three.”
My object in moving this amendment is to provide that the period of leave of absence shall be twelve months, three months of which shall be on full pay and three on half- pay.
– I would point out to Senator Stewart that it is useless for him to proposethatamendmentatthisstage. Theclause, as amended, limits the leave of absence to twelve months on half-pay. If Senator Stewart desires to insert an alternative proposal, it must be that the leave of absence be limited for six months on full pay. That, however, would amount to the same thing. If an officer, receiving £400 a year, were granted twelve months’ leave of absence on half-pay, that would mean that he would receive £200. If we gave him six months’ leave on full pay that would amount to the same thing so far, as pay was concerned, while if we reduced the leave to three months on full pay, he would receive £100. No officer would accept three months’ leave of absence on full pay, when he was entitled to twelve months on half -pay. The committee has decided already that an officer shall be entitled under the clause to twelve months’ leave of absence on half-pay, and it would be absurd to make him an alternative offer of less.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).Have we carried the amendment that the leave shall be’ for twelve months on halfpay?
– Can I move an: amendment upon that?
– Not upon that part, because these words stand.
– Why was I not permitted to move my amendment before?
– Because Senator Dobson’s amendment preceded that suggested by the honorable senator.
– But Senator Dobson would have withdrawn his amendment in order that mine might be put.
– Let me make the matter plain. The latter part of the clause provided originally that the GovernorGeneral -
May grant to him on the recommendation of the commissioner leave of absence for a period not exceeding twelve months.
Senator Dobson proposed the insertion of the words “ on half-pay or “ after the words “twelve months.” I carefully avoided striking out the words “ of which,” in order to conserve Senator Stewart’s rights as far as I could, but the committee having decided to insert the words, then the striking out of the words “ of which “ became merely consequential. Senator Stewart is in order in moving the omission of the words “six,” with a view to insert the word “ three “ in lieu thereof, but, as Senator Drake has explained, it would appear to be more or less grotesque to do so.
– I would suggest that Senator Stewart stand by his amendment, notwithstanding that the words he proposes to insert may not agree with the remainder of the clause: I wished to vote on Senator Stewart’s proposal, but was deterred from doing so because I was told he would have an opportunity of moving it later on, and I did not want to see Senator Dobson’s amendment defeated in case theclause might stand. If Senator Stewart’s amendment is carried the clause will have to be recommitted, in order to strike out the words which have been inserted on the motion of Senator Dobson. Those of us who are in favour of Senator Stewart’s amendment should have an opportunity of voting for it, especially in view of the fact that the Chairman intimated that we should have an opportunity of doing so. If Senator Stewart’s motion is carried he will be able, when the Bill is reported, to move that the clause be recommitted, and I think that in that way the difficulty will be overcome.
– I agree that the clause as it stands istoo liberal, and I am prepared to support Senator Stewart in his desire to have it recommitted. I think it is just as well, however, to make sure of one reduction in regard to the termof the leave of absence, and that has been secured by the passing of my amendment. I am with Senator Stewart in hisproposal, and will pledge myself to vote for the recommittal of the clause: I gathered from the statement made by the Chairman that the honorable senator would hove an opportunity of getting his amendment put.
– If SenatorDobson’s amendment had been lost, that opportunity would have been given to Senator Stewart.
– I think the honorable senator understood that, even if my amendment were carried, he would still have an opportunity of proposing the amendment indicated by him. That being the case, cannot the Minister undertake to say that he will not oppose the recommittal of the clause.
– If we carry Senator Stewart’s amendment, the clause will have to be recommitted.
– I do not think the Minister ought to allow the clause to go like this. Half of my amendment has been carried, and we ought to carry the rest. In my opinion, the proper course to be pursued is for the Postmaster-General to see that the second part of my amendment is carried. Surely he does not shrink from taking the sense of the committee upon a clause of this kind ? I do not want to leave my own amendment and vote for something else.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause further amended and agreed to, as follows : -
When an officer has continued in the public service at least twenty years, and has not been reduced for misconduct or deprived of leave of absence, the Governor-General may grant to him, on the recommendation of the commissioner, leave of absence for a period not exceeding twelve months on half- pay or six months on full pay ; but for such period of absence such officer shall not be entitled, to receive any addition to his rate of pay.
Senate adjourned at4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 January 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020124_senate_1_7/>.