1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30a.m., and read prayers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, uponnotice -
Government and the War-office regarding the meat contract for the supply of the troops in South Africa?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That this Bill be now read the second time.
This is one of those Bills which are in a sense machinery Bills, for the purpose of bringing the Constitution of Australia into operation, and at the same time it is one which involves a very important principle, that is to say the principle of the absolute uniformity and equality of representation throughout the Commonwealth. It has been stated by some persons that it is one of those measures which might be allowed to wait until later on ; but, I think, if honorable senators will reflect upon the present condition of things in electoral matters they will Bee that it ought to be dealt with as early as possible. In the first place, in regard to the Senate itself, under the Constitution it will be necessary to hold the elections to fill the first set of vacancies somewhere in 1903.
– It may come earlier.
– I do not wish to cast any unpleasant shadows over honorable senators ; but we have to realize that under the ordinary processes of the Constitution there must be an election for the Senate somewhere in 1903. An honorable senator opposite says it may be earlier. I do not wish to anticipate anything of that kind. But that is an additional reason. We ought to be ready at any time for making an appeal to the people. In addition to that, it must be obvious that you oan never have a satisfactory representation of the people of a federation unless the basis of representation is uniform. At the present time, as we all know, in some States the only qualification for a vote is residence, and no person who is resident is, on the ground of sex or for any other reason, debarred from taking part in the choice of members to serve in the Legislature. In some States only the nien vote. In other States an undue weight is given to the possession of property, and in other States again there are various restrictions of locality. All these things go to cut down that absolute uniformity which ought to exist in the electorates in every portion of the Commonwealth. It is the desire of the Government in this measure to abolish all those anomalies, to make the electorates uniform, and to place the franchise all over- Australia on the broadest possible basis. The most important matter, therefore, to consider will be the basis of representation. The provisions in regard to that matter are contained in another measure which is before the House of Representatives, and which was rend a ‘first time there in June last. The electoral machinery for carrying that representation into effect is contained in the measure now before the Senate. But as it is a necessary part of the policy of the Government, I may state at once that the franchise proposed recognises one ground, and one ground only, as giving a right to vote, and that -is residence in the Commonwealth for six months or over by any person of adult age. That franchise is the broadest possible one. There is no class of the community left out. There is no person of the full age of 21 years, and resident in Australia, who is not to have a voice in the making of its laws. I think the Commonwealth will have reason to congratulate itself when that measure is passed into law, as I have no doubt it will be, on having the most representative Parliament, according to the truest principles of democracy, which exists in the world. It is no doubt very important that the representation of the electors on so broad a franchise should be carried out in such a way as that they will be fairly represented in ‘the Parliament, and the object of this measure is to insure that representation both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. In regard to the Senate, the first question that arises is as to the division of electorates. It is in the power of the Parliament to subdivide the States for the purpose of the Senate elections, but unless other provision is made in that behalf each State is to vote as one electorate. It will be noticed that although power was given in the Constitution to divide Queensland for the purpose of the Senate elections it was not exercised. o that at the present time the Constitution applies .throughout Australia, and each State as one electorate returns six senators. We see no reason to depart from that provision. And it appears to us that, having regard to the position of the Senate under the Constitution, as being specially representative of the States, the truest representation is to be obtained, not by cutting up the States into different electorates, but by taking each State as a whole. But in regard to the House of Representatives, the Government have thought that there is only one way of getting a fair representation of the people, and that is by dividing the States into single electorates. The principle of single electorates -has been so well established, and the reasons for it are so well known that I need not elaborate them. . I need only say that we have provided in this Bill’ that there shall be in each State a number of electorates corresponding to the number of members who have to be returned. Now, as to the basis on which these electorates are to be divided, there is only one way in which that can be done. Honorable senators will remember that the Constitution provides that the representation of each State shall be in accordance with the quota which is to be fixed by methods therein provided: We -have adopted the same .plan in the representation of the States. Each State under the constitution is entitled to return a certain proportion of members to the House of Representatives, and we provide that the electorates which return these members are to be divided on the principle of a quota. That is to say, the whole number of the voters of the State is to be taken, their number is to be divided by the number of. members to be sent to the House of Representatives, and the result will be the quota which will return a member. In regard to the division - the local division - which is to embrace that quota, there may be some difference of opinion, but I think that reflection will show honorable senators that there-is really only one satisfactory way of delimiting the locality which is to return a member, and that is to hand over the power to a commission, which will be able to take into consideration all the various circumstances of locality, accessibility, community of interests, and special conditions of any kind which will make it right to group together the quotas of electors in certain localities. That principle is to be carried out in this way. The commissioners will be appointed, and will make the delimitation of the districts. In doing that they are to be guided by community of interests, accessibility, and other considerations of the kind. They have a right in making this division to allow a margin of 25 per cent. That is to say, they may include 25 per cent, less than the quota of electors within certain boundaries, or they may allow 25 per cent. more. It is necessary to give them that margin in view of the geographical features of localities and other circumstances connected with the division and delimitation of the ‘boundaries. The commissioners having arrived at some plan of distribution, will lay their scheme before the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives by resolution approves of the division, it may be proclaimed by the Governor-General in Council, and the divisions proclaimed will become the electorates which will return members to the Federal Parliament. If, on the other hand, the House of Representatives disapproves of the scheme, it is to be sent back again for revision, and for a further report by the electoral commissioners. In a word, therefore, these commissioners are to be appointed in each State to allocate the localities in which the quotas are to be grouped, subject to the final approval of the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives does not approve of the boundaries which have been recommended by the commissioners, the commission has to reconsider its scheme and send in another report. .
– Why is the matter removed from the consideration of the Senate?
– I will deal with that point presently. I think it must be quite obvious “that the method adopted in many of the States, of fixing by schedule to the Act the limits of the boundaries of electorates, certainly would not work well in connexion with federal representation. In the first place, we all know that in the States where the plan has been tried localities have changed in population, so that in a few years the population of a locality which might have had a quota, or a little more than a quota, at tlie time the Act was passed, has fallen below it, and a locality which might have had much less than a quota gets a great deal more than a quota. In other words, it is quite impossible, considering the unsettled nature of Australia, the shifting character of the population, and the way in which the prosperity of districts goes up and down, to fixin any satisfactory manner by Act of Parliament certain limits as comprising the locality which is to contain the quota of electors. In New South Wales that was our experience. The first remedy adopted there was to have an elastic system, by which there was a periodical increase of members corresponding with the increase of population. But we found that did not work at all, and no other plan has been so satisfactory there as the one I have indicated, which has been adopted, and has been in use in New South Wales for some time. Honorable senators representing Queensland and Western Australia in particular., will no doubt realise at once that it would be still more impossible to fix for those States, by Act of Parliament, definite boundaries within which a certain quota of electors could always be allotted. The result would be that every time a quota had altered, and when it was necessary to make a redistribution, it would be essential to come to Parliament to have the boundaries refixed, unless some such scheme as that proposed in this Bill were adopted.
– It might be necessary to alter the boundaries with each census.
– Exactly ; it might be. There is another reason, and that is that I believe it to be highly undesirable that Parliament itself should have the fixing of the localities to contain these quotas. We all know that, notwithstanding the very best possible intentions in the world, there may be a tendency to cany out what has. been known as gerrymandering, and to fix electorates more with regard to the exigencies of parties or governments, or even individuals, than with regard to the true needs of the community. So that whatever experience the members of the Senate may ! have had before ‘in the different States repre– ;sented here, I think they will come to the.
I conclusion that in. the representation .of the.
States, in the House of Representatives especially - when it is remembered that the basis of the whole representation is a quota fixed with regard to the whole population of the Commonwealth - the only fair and convenient way of dividing these electorates is by the system I have mentioned, which is perfectly elastic, and which enables us at any time, when it becomes necessary, to call upon the commissioners to make a new delimitation.
– Will the commissioners do it of their own volition ?
– The commissioners will not act of their own volition. It will be within the power of the Commonwealth Government at any time to put the commissioners in motion, and to order a new delimitation of districts. But, as that has to come before the House of Representatives, I think it may be taken as almost certain that no alteration of the boundaries will be made unless it is necessary. The question has been asked why it is that Parliament is not by this Bill to have the right to decide the boundaries of these electorates, and why it is to be approved by one House only. But I think that if honorable senators will reflect for a moment they will see that even if Parliament had the decision of the matter, instead of the House of Representatives only, the power taken by the Senate would, under all the circumstances, be merely a formal one. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the House of Representatives, in fixing the boundaries of its own electorates, having taken a particular course, this Senate would take upon itself to alter the scheme or set it aside, or interfere with it in any way. It has been one of the best known principles in the working of two Houses of Parliament, as we have known them to work in Great Britain, and throughout the British Empire, that in matters affecting the representation especially of one House, the other House should not interfere. So that in placing this matter in the hands of the House of Representatives only, as the Bill does, honorable senators will see that, if the Senate is deprived of a voice, itis merely a formal matter, because the power to alter such a scheme is not one that the Senate would exercise. Therefore it is very much better in dealing with a matterof this kind todeal with realities as far as possible ; and if the real source of approval and of authority is the House of Representatives, it is better to let that be apparent on the face of the measure itself, and to give no opportunity for the choice of the House of Representatives in the fixing of. the electorates which return its members to be interfered with in some unconstitutional or irregular way by the Senate.
– The Senate would not care for the House of Representatives to interfere with it.
– Exactly ; the honorable senator has just put a strong illustration of the converse of the position. I take it that it would be highly improbable if we came to the conclusion that the electorates for the Senate should be divided, that the House of Representatives would reverse the decision. Whichever way we put the point, it does seem to me that we must recognise the principle that the House of Representatives ought to be the judge, and the sole judge, of the division of the electorates which are to return its members.
– Does not section 29 of the Constitution contemplate that Parliament should do it?
– I do not think so.
– It is the one case in which we should insist on the rights of the Senate.
– I am now explaining the measure, and I have no doubt that my reasons for what is proposed will commend themselves to the majority of honorable senators. It may be that those who have not been accustomed to this idea of the division of electorates by an authority outside Parliament may have some difficulty in reconciling themselves to a new principle. But in some of the States we have had experience of this principle, and have found it to work perfectly well. I say, in addition to that, that members of each House should control the electoral matters concerning that House, and that, if that principle is right, this power of delimiting the boundaries for the House of Representatives should be left to that House.
– It is one thing not to exercise the power and quite another thing to have that power taken away from us.
– The honorable and learned senator seems to me to make a mistake when he suggests that any power is taken away. There is no power now with regard to the boundaries of the electorates for the Senate. At the present time each constituency returns its members in accordance with a division made by the States. Neither House of the Parliament has had anything to do with it. So that it is a mistake to suppose that we are taking away a right which the Senate possesses.
– That is by the Constitution.
– Of course it is, but I am talking of what our rights are. The Senate has no right at all ; and the question is whether we should give the Senate any right to interfere in the division of electorates for the House of Representatives, or should leave the matter solely in the hands of the House of Representatives. There is another matter of some importance in dealing with the machinery for the distribution of voters, which I think I ought to refer to before I come to the system of voting. As honorable senators are aware, there are different systems in the different States regarding the collection of votes, the place of voting, and vouching for the right to vote at an election. For instance, in New South Wales, we have a system of electors’ rights - a very elaborate system - under which every elector must have a piece of paper, a document, which is his title to vote. He may be on the roll, he may possess every qualification that it is possible to possess, and he may be known to the electoral officer; but if he has not his elector’s right, and cannot produce it, he is not entitled to vote. In Victoria there is, I understand, a mixed system - a system of ratepayers’ votes and a system involving the production of electors’ rights. In other States there is no system of electors’ rights, but simply a reference- to lists and rolls. If the voter satisfies the returning officer that he is on the roll, he is entitled to vote. After considering all these methods, we have come to the conclusion that experience has shown beyond all doubt that the system of electors’ rights is clumsy, unworkable, and unnecessary.
– And not reliable.
– And not reliable. As a means of vouching for the identification of the electors, it is really no better than the system of rolls in force in the other States. Of course it is necessary to have some system by which the voter will be as nearly as possible.identifiable when he attends to record his vote. No doubt, the most convenient practice- would be to allow 27 l an elector to vote in any part of his electorate, but it is obvious that under no system would it be possible to allow a voter to do that with any prospect of reasonable identification “ on the part of the returning officer or person in charge of the polling booth.
– Except by means of electors’ rights.
– Which, as I have said, is quite impossible. Under the system we propose, polling places ave to be provided for at which electors will record their votes according to the rolls ; the names on the rolls are to be arranged according to the polling places, and, as a general rule, every elector will have to vote at his own polling place. In order to overcome difficulties which may arise owing to the inability of a voter to attend his own polling place, we have provided that an elector may obtain at any time after the issue of a writ, and up to within three days of polling, a voter’s certificate, enabling him to vote anywhere in the electorate.
– Absent voters 1
– Not necessarily absent voters, although they may be absentminded voters. “A man who cannot attend at his own polling place must obtain a voter’s certificate to enable him to vote at some other place within the electorate. The object really aimed at in this provision is that all voters who cannot attend at their own polling places on the day of election and who, under ordinary circumstances, would be entitled to vote, shall be provided for. By giving a certificate we think that every safe-guard is adopted that is necessary, and by requiring an elector to present that certificate we do away with any danger in allowing him to vote in any part of his electorate. There is another provision in the Bill which enables votes to be given in a convenient way - I refer to the system of voting by post. That system enables an elector who resides more than 10 miles from a polling place, or who anticipates that on the day of election be will be away from his polling place, to go through certain forms and vote by post. I will refer to the details of that system later on. Under this system of voting by post any vote which arrives at the polling place before the actual counting of votes takes place will be accepted. I have referred to these matters for the purpose of showing the way in which the Government have arranged for the electoral rolls. Shortly put, the system is this : After the division has been settled, as I have pointed out, certain polling places will be arranged. The roll in respect of those polling places will then be prepared. Every voter must vote at his own polling place as a general rule, but facilities are provided to enable electors to obtain voters’ certificates or to vote by post. In the case of a man using a voter’s certificate he must vote personally somewhere within the electorate, but where the system of voting by post is resorted to the elector may vote anywhere, and his vote is counted provided that it arrives at the polling booth in time. There are certain matters connected with voting by post which will have to be referred to, and there are some defects in the Bill, as at present drawn, which the Government may deem it necessary to remedy. I see no reason for referring to them at the present time. Now I come to what is perhaps more important than any of the matters with which I have been dealing, and that is the method of voting. The method of voting provided for in regard to elections for the House of Representatives is somewhat different from that which .applies to elections for the Senate. I ‘will deal first with the system of voting to be observed in elections for the House of Representatives. In the first place we have adopted the form of ballot-paper which is used in a place from which a great many good things come - South Australia. We have adopted a ballot-paper with a little square opposite the name of each candidate. I take it that the object of every electoral system is to make the work of the elector as simple as possible, because the more complicated the duties which are put upon the elector are the more likely are we to have informal votes, and the more informal votes we have, the greater must be the defects of our representative system. I shall have occasion to refer by-and-bye to the voting at the New South Wales election for the Senate ; but I merely wish to mention now, in order to show the extent to which irregularity and informality may be carried, that something like 22 per cent, of the votes polled in, New South Wales during that election were informal, and therefore were not counted. Out of the total votes polled there, something like 38,000 were informal. That perhaps stands as the highest 1-6001x1 of informality which has taken place in connexion with any election throughout Australia. It was not because of any want of intelligence on the part of the electors that it occurred, but because of the complexity of the ballotpaper which they had to use. There were a large number of candidates.
– No, fifty.
– Let us say that there were fifty. The elector had to record his vote by striking out the names of those for whom he did not wish to vote. The possibility of mistake under a system of that kind must be perfectly obvious.
– There was no right of plumping.
– That is so. The electors had to leave only 6 names out of 50 on the ballot-paper, so that the difficulty which they experienced must be obvious. Difficulties of that kind will be overcome by the adoption of the form of ballot-paper which has a square opposite the name of each candidate, and which requires some mark to be made in that square in order to make the vote formal. The only thing which is necessary in the use of this ballotpaper at an election for the House of Representatives is that a number shall be put opposite the name of one candidate. The first choice is marked “1,” but power is given to an elector to record also what is called a contingent vote, by marking the figures “2,” “3,” “4,” “5,” opposite the names of the different candidates according to the wish of the voter. This is an adaptation of what is known as the Queensland system of “contingent voting.” It is a modification of the Queensland practice, and, as we think, an improvement upon it. The principle on which the votes are counted may be explained briefly. All that an elector has to do is to make his first choice by writing the figure “ 1 “ opposite the name of a candidate. After he has done that, he may make a contingent choice of as many candidates as he pleases.
– Is he compelled to do so ?
– No. All that is necessary is for the elector to mark the figure “ 1 “ opposite the name of a candidate. He may, if he chooses, mark the figures “ 2,” “ 3,” “ 4,” and so on, opposite the names of other candidates, as contingent votes, which are counted under circumstances which I will indicate in a moment. If an elector marks “ 1 “ opposite the name of a candidate, his voting-paper is valid. If he marks the figures “ 2,” “ 3,” “ 4,” or “ 5,” and so on, opposite the names of candidates, then his vote will be counted in the contingent vote. There is no compulsion on the elector to do more than mark “ 1 “ opposite one name, and that is an important fact to remember.
– Is it correct, to say that this is the Queensland system?
– I said it was a modification of the Queensland system.
– A very great modification of it.
– The system adopted in the counting of votes is that in the first instance a count is made of the total number of votes marked “ 1.” If any candidate has an absolute majority of those votes, he is declared to be elected ; but if no candidate has an absolute majority of those votes a second count is made, the candidate lowest on the list is dropped out, and his votes are then distributed among the remaining candidates according to the second preferences marked on his papers. If after that distribution there is another count, and no one has an absolute majority, then the candidate at the bottom of the list is dropped out, and his votes are distributed, until by this process of exhaustion and distribution of the votes a candidate has an absolute majority, and is declared elected.
– Do these secondary votes have full value? Do they count “ 1 “?
– Absolutely. I am dealing with the system to be followed in elections for the House of Representatives. It seems to me that the process I have described is calculated to bring out in the most certain way possible the choice of the majority of the electors. The combinations in elections conducted under the ordinary method frequently result in the election of a person who is the choice, not of the majority, but really of the minority. He happens to be chosen because the division of the majority of voters in small combinations makes the election of a representative of them impossible. Therefore, without referring f urther to this system, which seems to me to be a very simple process, I have only to say that with single electorates, and the method of arriving at the will of the majority provided for in the Bill, we have a system which will give to the people of the Commonwealth representation in the House of Representatives as fair as can well be attained.
I come now to the elections for the Senate. In the elections for the Senate, as I have said already, a State will be polled as one electorate. Hitherto there has been but one system in force, namely, voting on what is called the block system.
– Except in Tasmania.
– Yes. There is a worthy and notable exception in the case of Tasmania, which has been so enlightened as to adopt the Hare-Clark system.
– It has dropped it again.
– Pardon me, it has not. Except in the case of Tasmania, the voting for the Senate in all the States is under the old system. I appeal to the experience of every honorable senator as to whether the old system, and the result of it, are not absolutely uncertain. We may of course secure as our representatives the choice of the majority. But we may get the choice of the minority, and have more than half the electors disfranchised. The aim of the system is to secure the choice of the majority, but the majority of votes polled in that way may give us no true representation in Parliament of the opinion of the whole electorate, but a representation of the opinion of the majority only. I should like to refer to the experience of New South Wales in this matter. Honorable senators will be able to multiply instances for themselves, and I might dig out from the vast heap of literature on the subject innumerable instances of the results of what is called the blockvote system. Over and over again, in different places, while there has been a majority of a certain party outside the Legislature, the result of an election has been to send into the Legislature a minority to represent that party. I propose to give a concrete instance which will bring the matter more directly home to honorable senators than any illustrations taken from the experience of other places. In the case of the New South Wales Senate election, as will be remembered, we had the free-trade and protection parties more distinctly defined, perhaps, than in any of the other States. The question was discussed in the other States, and was made a party question, but, in New South Wales more than in any of the other States, the issue by the time the voting took place had become very sharply defined. I propose to show how closely the party vote was followed. I take the actual numbers of votes polled, and I find that in New South Wales my honorable friend Senator Walker received 79,800 votes ; Senator Millen, 75,010 ; Senator Gould, 74,253 ; Senator O’Connor, 72,000 - and he had no right to be in that position on party principles at all - Senator Neild, 70,563 ; and Senator Pulsford, 70,468. Then I take the protectionists, beginning with Manning, who received 48,000 votes ; Kidd received 44,000 odd ; Mackay, 41,000 o.dd ; Waddell, 32,000 odd ; and Hammond, 32,252. In that election there were “ bunches “ chosen for the free-trade and protectionist parties, and the result of the voting, with the exception of my own case, was that the members of the party seem to have adhered very well to the party vote. That is to say, both free-trade and protectionist candidates had their supporters giving much the same amount of support to each of them.
– A fiscal, not a federal, vote.
– Exactly as the honorable senator says. It is, of course, a difficult matter to fix, with any accuracy, how many of these were free-trade, and how many protectionist votes. I do not pretend to have fixed them in any accurate way ; but, making the best calculation one can, and looking through the votes given for the whole of the candidates, taking those who were advertised as protectionist and freetrade candidates, and those who identified themselves with these “ bunches,” I estimate that the free-trade vote represented 75,000 voters, the protectionist vote 60,000, and the labour vote 30,000, while there were 17,000 voters who might be classed as independent. These figures give a total of 182,000 voters. If the representation of New South Wales was to have been a fair representation in accordance with the opinion of the people of New South Wales, one would suppose that the protectionists and the labour party would certainly have had representation as well as theree-traders. However, the result was that there were five free-traders returned, one protectionist, and no labour representative. With regard to the protectionist - myself - it was generally admitted, and I am only stating now what is a matter of history, that if it had not been for special circumstances connected with my position in federal politics, which gave me a number of votes from the free-trade party, there would have been no protectionist returned, and the whole of the representatives returned for New South Wales would have been free-traders.
– Why differentiate from the labour party ?
– I am not differentiating from any party. Surely I may give an illustration without being accused of differentiating one party from another. The result of the vote was that, out of 182,000 voters 75,000 returned five representatives, and if their organization had been more perfect, they would have returned the whole six, while 107,000 voters would have been absolutely unrepresented.
– Would the honorable and learned senator allow rae to interpose A great many of the men who were unrepresented voluntarily disfranchised themselves by adopting the only form of plumping possible, giving one vote to a likely candidate rather than throwing away votes upon wasters.
– That is one of the evils of this block system of voting - it encourages men to throw away their rights of representation. Whatever calculations may be made in detail with regard to this vote in New South Wales, every one will admit that the result of it has often been, in elections conducted on the blockvote system, that the majority has the absolute power of securing the representation of its own opinion only, and a large number of the electors are unrepresented altogether.
– And the honorable and learned senator does not believe in majority rule in the Senate 1
– That is a different thing altogether. I am coming in a moment to the principle on which I think this representation ought to be founded, but the inference to be drawn from the figures that I have quoted is that it is not the majority that is represented here under the block system, but the minority. If we take the whole of the electorates of New South Wales together, the representation here is not a representation of the electorates of New South Wales according to their numbers. I have taken only this illustration, but it may be multiplied a hundred fold by the experience of other States and other countries. The result is to show how absolutely unreliable this method of election is in making the Legislature a picture of the opinion in the country which is supposed to be represented there. After all what is the object of representation ? Surely the object is to represent fairly the opinion of the community of voters. It is altogether a confusion of ideas to suppose that we want in our representation a representation of the majority only. It is quite true that the majority in decision must rule. It is quite true that when we have our Legislature chosen, the decision must be the decision of the majority ; but I say it is altogether a mistake to suppose that the representation should be the representation of the majority only. The only fair way to get a true representation of the community is to have a representation proportionate to the opinion of the community, and then when the representatives have met together the majority of those representatives must decide. It is by losing sight of that principle, it seems to me, that a great deal of confusion has taken place in regard to this question of the rule of the majority. It is said that we must have the rule of the majority in elections. What does the rule of the majority in elections mean ? It means that a large portion of our voters are not represented at all. When we come to think of what government by the people, a true democracy is, we see that it is altogether opposed to any such principle. A better way perhaps to illustrate this matter than by any arithmetical methods is to take an example which will at once show the principles upon which representation ought to take place and the principle of this proportional vote. I will assume for a moment that we have a community which has just passed out of the stage of purest democracy. I say the purest democracy would be where the people can directly and individually take part in all the deliberations regarding the affairs of the community. I take a case in which I assume that the people have got beyond that stage, and have got to a stage at which those entitled to take part in the management of the community are so numerous that that cannot be done, and they have met to elect an assembly to carry on the business of their country. I will assume that this ideal democracy consists of 6,000 voters, and that they wish to elect a representative body. Supposing this body of persons had to determine upon the best principle on which they could be represented, I will undertake to say that they would never dream of adopting the principle of the block vote. This system of block voting has come to us with a number of traditions which have grown gradually, traditions giving splendid testimony of -the pluck, endurance, and love of freedom of our own people in times gone by. But there is a number of principles handed down to us under the British Constitution, and invested with a certain amount of sacredness, which, I- venture to say, are altogether unsuited to modern times, and this is one of them. I assume that this ideal democracy is anxious to choose the best system by which it may be represented by a body of six representatives. I say it would not adopt the block system, because it would be seen at once that a vote on these principles would result in the six members elected representing little more than one-half of the people. And therefore a little less than one-half of the people would not be represented. If this representation was to be on ordinary principles nobody would dream of adopting it. What system would they adopt1! Surely they would adopt the system of every elector choosing a member to represent him 1 That is to say, there would be six. members to bo chosen, and every 6,000 electors would have a right to choose a member to represent them.
– But suppose that there are twelve different sections of opinion 1
– If ever mind about that at the present time. I am dealing with the matter by giving an illustration. It must be dealt with in the simplest form’ of illustration in order to show honorable senators what the system is, and I hope that I shall be allowed to carry on my own illustration. I take it, therefore, that the most obvious way of this community being represented would be by the return of a member for every 6,000 persons.
– Six thousand to be a quota.
– That is the simplest form of quota, but it works perfectly well in the illustration I am about to give. I shall assume that the voting will be carried out in the simplest way possible. The community will assemble itself under its president or head officer, with his secretaries about him, there will be open voting, and the voters will file past and have their votes recorded. Imagine that that process has been carried out, and that 1,000 votes have been cast for A. He is declared elected. If, after A is declared elected, a voter files past and is asked for whom he votes, and he says, “ I vote for A,” he is told - “Your vote is not wanted for A, because he is elected. Who is the next man whom you would like to vote for?” He says, “ B is the man I select,” and his vote is recorded for B. The voters keep on trooping through. I assume that B gets his 1,000 votes and is declared elected. Some voter comes along, and when he is asked as to his vote he says, “ I vote for A.” He is told that A is elected, and he says, “ My vote is for B.” Then he is told that B is elected, and asked, “Who is your next choice?” He says, “ I vote for C.” His vote is given to C, and so on, until you find that, by every voter voting, the six are elected, and they represent in that way the choice of the people of that community of 6,000 persons. Under that system every voter is represented. No vote is thrown away, and you have an ideal representation of the community. That is the principle of proportional representation. That is the principle which we would carry out under the system in this Bill. The nearer any system approaches to that, the truer will your representation be. If honorable senators will follow out that illustration they will find that it exactly states all the principles which are embodied in the proposed system of proportional voting.
– It is not contained in the Bill.
– It is contained in the Bill, but I am stating it in its simplest form, and it has to be stated in its simplest form in the first instance.
– Why do the Government not carry it out in their Bill ?
– It is necessary to carry out this principle ; but, of course, as votes have to be given in quite a different way, and under quite different circumstances, the method cannot in all respects be followed. What do we do ? We say to the voter - “ Here is your ballot-paper, and we ask you to mark on it the figure 1 opposite the name of the person whom you select as your representative. But you may put 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, as many preferences as you like, opposite the names of others whom you intend to vote for. You need not mark the preferences unless you like, but if you do, your preferences will be given effect to. If you do not, your vote will be lost altogether in the event of its not being required for the man you have chosen..” That is the position we put the voter in. Not only that ; but we say to him - “Not only need you not vote for more than one, but, if you like, we shall allow you to cross out the name of any candidate you do not wish to vote for.” In other words, we give full effect to the elector’s desire. If he wishes to vote for one person only, and does not bother himself about any one else, then that desire is given effect to if his vote is necessary to secure the return of the first chosen candidate. If his candidate is already chosen, then his vote is lost. We do not say to him - as the present system does - “We expect you to go through a complicated mental process, and, if you do not go through it you will render your vote informal.” We make the duty of the voter as simple as possible. We get at his intention as nearly as we can. Then we come to the system of the counting of the votes. It is set out in the schedules to the Bill. I do not intend to take honorable senators through the regulations seriatim. I only intend to try and describe, as well as possible, the principle of the system. By-and-by, when we come to deal with the details, those smaller matters of method may be gone into. When honorable senators are criticising and dealing wilh the wording of the regulations, they should remember that in very many cases those regulations have to state what is the most difficult thing in the world to state, a mathematical fact or process in ordinary language. I shall now describe the process. In the first place, all the votes are examined and the informal ones are thrown out. The valid votes are then allotted to candidates, in accordance with the No. 1 votes marked on the ballot papers. Then they are counted in order that the quota may be arrived at, that is the least number of votes which can return a member. Under the system adopted in Tasmania, they simply divide the number of effective votes by the number of members to be returned, and the result is the quota called the Hare quota. That is not the quota which is adopted in this measure and which, we contend, is the true quota. It is called the Droop quota, after the name of the person who first called attention to it. How is it . arrived at? Supposing that there are six members to be returned to the Senate, you add one to that number, and you divide the whole number of votes, leaving out the informal ones by seven. You then get a quotient, to which you add one and that is the quota. I am not going into the difference between the Droop quota and the Hare quota. I shall deal with that later on. Having got the quota, you count the “No. 1 “ choices, and you find out how many candidates have got that quota. Every candidate who, on that No. 1 vote, has got the quota, is declared elected. It is possible that a candidate may have got exactly the quota. In that case the whole of the papers cast for him are put on one side, and are not dealt with except under certain unusual circumstances, to which I shall refer later on. But supposing, as is much more likely, that one of the persons elected has more than the number required to elect him ; supposing that the quota is 1,000, and that 1,500 votes are cast for him, he has obtained 500 votes more than are required to elect him. What is to be done with them? Under the illustration I gave, the 500 voters who came in ready to vote for that candidate would be told to record their votes for thensecond preference, and of course we must get as near as we can to that. What we do is to distribute that surplus 500 votes amongst all the persons who are marked No. 2 on the ballot papers.
– Which 500 votes 1
– The honorable senator asks me a very pertinent question which I shall answer. I have taken the simplest form in order to illustrate this system, but, as a matter of fact, it is impossible without trusting to mere chance to distribute any particular 500 votes, and it is due to Mr. Justice Clark of Tasmania that a method has been discovered by which the element of chance in the distribution of the surplus is removed. In order to find out the value of the 500 votes in second preferences, what do we do ? As I say, you cannot distribute any block of 500 for this reason : That if you take any particular 500 in that number there may not be half the votes as second preferences for candidate B that there would be in another 500. It is almost impossible, except by leaving it to a mere matter of chance, to pick out any particular 500 and say you will distribute those. It would be perfectly easy to do it if you were sure that the whole 1,500 contained all through the same number of second preferences for the same persons. Then you could take any 500, but as you cannot be sure of that, the taking of any 500 makes it a matter of chance. Under our system you take the 1,500 votes, and you find out how the No. 2’s, or second preferences, are distributed in thom, and whatever proportion of No. 2’s cast for candidate B there are in the 1,500 votes there must be the same proportion in the 500 votes, which in fairness should be distributed. Supposing, for instance, that in the 1,500 votes there are 750 No. 2’s cast for B : then you are entitled to say that in the 500 surplus votes, which in fairness should be distributed, there must be also cast for B the same proportion.
– Not necessarily.
– That must follow absolutely. So that instead of trusting to the chance of handing over any 500 votes you may pick upon you hand over not the votes themselves, but a parcel with a certain vote value. The vote value is 250 in the illustration I have given. I have put the matter in that way, because my experience in my investigations has been that it leads to a very great deal of confusion if. you begin to try and find out the vote value, and the proportion of vote value without looking at what the main principle is. The main principle is precisely the same under that system as it is when the voters file past. When the voters are filing past the 500 voters will be told the way to vote, and they will cast their votes there and then for their second choice. The best way of doing that under our system is to take the surplus and distribute it according to the proportion of second choices j and the only way of doing ‘ that with any degree of accuracy at all is by the principle I have indicated, by which we ascertain the vote value of the surplus in accordance with the “No. 2’s” cast for each candidate in the whole number’ of the papers polled. You can ascertain then the number of second choices, and you apportion the vote values of the second choices in that way. You deal with the second, third, and fourth surpluses, if any, on the same principle. If you find, on going through the papers in that way, that there is no candidate who has obtained the quota, you proceed by exhaustion. You drop out the lowest, and you distribute his votes amongst the candidates who remain, according to preferences marked on the ballot-papers. I will assume A is elected, and his surplus distributed ; and I will assume that B, 0, D, E, and F are not elected. You hand over to B, C, D, and E the preferences indicated on the votes of F, which are distributed on F being dropped out.
– Must you not take a new vote value as each candidate is put out ?
– The vote value only arises when there is a surplus, and whenever there is a surplus you must have a vote value. But I atn dealing now with the person who drops out because he has not obtained the quota, and has secured the lowest number of first preferences. His votes will consist first of all of a bundle of first votes. They are distributed at their first vote value amongst the second and third candidates and so on, according to those for whom they are recorded.
– It is making a man vote for whom he does not intend to vote.
– No, because his votes are apportioned only according to the indications on his ballot-paper. “When you come upon a bundle of first choices, cast for a candidate who has been dropped out, they are distributed according to the absolute value. When you come across a second bundle, which is the surplus of a candidate who has obtained a quota, those votes are distributed according to their surplus vote value, and so on, right through, until the principle is fully earned out. In that way those candidates who have obtained the quota are elected, and you then go through the same process again with those that are left, making your counts, distributing, dropping out where necessary, until the whole of your candidates have got the quota. Under the Hare-Clark system, as I have mentioned before, there may be cases in which no one gets the quota. That arises largely from the fact that the quota, which has been fixed by the Hare-Clark system, is too large a quota. Taking the illustration I have given before of 6,000 electors and six candidates, the HareClark quota would be 1,000 votes. That is to say you simply divide the number of electors by the number of seats. Therefore, before a man can be elected under that system, he must get 1,000 votes. The result is, if every man votes and gives all his preferences, there is no waste at all, but if every man does not give his preferences it is impossible for every candidate to get the quota. Therefore, in fixing the quota, you have to be careful, if there are to be waste votes, not to fix it higher than is necessary. The principle of fixing the quota is to fix it in such a way that you secure a number which will return a certain number of members, and will not leave over enough votes to return another member. That is to say, still taking the illustration I have given of 6,000 electors and six members, while the Hare-Clark quota is 1,000, under this Bill the quota will be 858. So that, 858 being the quota, if you take six times that number you will have a balance of 852 left. That balance is the balance to come and go upon. It will cover the exhaust votes, and the cases of votes where the full choice is not made, or where the choice is only made of first a.nd second, or of first, second, and third ; and it will enable the electors to make their choice with the least possible waste.
– If there were a great number of informal votes the system of this Bill might break down.
– The informal votes are not counted. Before you fix the quota you throw out the informal votes. In fact, you* do not come to the question of the quota at all until you have got rid of” the informal votes, and your quota is based upon the number of actual effective votes counted in the election. The difference, therefore, between the Hare-Clark quota, and the quota of this Bill, is the difference between 1000 and 858. And we say that experience will show, and the principles upon which elections proceed must demonstrate, that the nearer you can get to the true quota - that is the lowest number of votes necessary to return a member - the better for your representation, and the less waste there will be in the recording of votes. Now I come, to another matter. Suppose that there are six members to be elected and only four have the quota after going through these different processes. There are consequently two who have not got the quota. Or suppose that there are two to be elected and no one has the quota. Then you go through the process of a supplementary election which is stated in the last paragraph of the regulations, and which is an addition made by Professor Nanson to this system. It is, as I say, simply a process of new election. You take all the voting-papers again and you eliminate all those candidates who have been elected already. You take the candidates who are left and arrange them in their order of preference as shown upon the ballot-papers - “4,” “5,” “6,’’ and “7,” or “19,” “20,” and “21.” You put them in accordance with their order of preference- “ 1,” “2,” “3,” “4,” or whatever it may be. Having done that you conduct the election exactly in accordance with the same principle as an election for the House of Representatives. You thus find him who has got an absolute majority, and after finding him drop him out as elected. Then you proceed to conduct another election, and to make another count on the same principle. So that in the unusual event - the very unusual event under this system - of a quota not being arrived at, you may have recourse to this supplementary process.
– We want compulsory voting.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator wants that to be taken seriously. One of the advantages of this system is that there is nothing compulsory about the voting. As long as a man votes for one candidate that is all that is necessary, and you do not disqualify him because he has voted for one only.
– He may plump ?
– Yes, the elector may plump for one person. And he has the right if he does so vote to say, “ I have not made up my mind about the other candidates, and am not going to take the trouble to do so. Rather than make up my mind I will lose my right to vote for the other candidates in the event of my particular candidate being elected by mine and other votes.” If an elector likes to say that there is no reason why he should not. I hope honorable senators will consider that the thing to be avoided above all others is the making of this system, or any system, obligatory on the elector. We should make the duty of the elector as simple as possible, and should make the principles upon which his vote is counted fair and just, and such as will give a true representation. We may leave to the intelligence of an ordinarily well-trained clerk in the electoral office, the duty of attending to the rest of the process with the most absolute confidence and certainty. There is a great deal of testimony as to the actual working of the HareClark system in Tasmania. There is particularly the evidence of Mr. R. M. Johnston, and of Mr. Davies, who has been returningofficer under it. I do not think there is a higher authority in statistical matters in this country than Mr. Johnston, of Tasmania, and he has given the most emphatic indorsement of approval of the system, and has demonstrated that there is nothing in the counting of these votes which cannot be carried out by any ordinarily intelligent electoral clerk working under ordinarily methodical management. It is not my in1 tention to detain the Senate by going into further details as to the principles and methods of this system of proportional representation. It has been my object to show that the true and only principle of real representation is proportional representation. Because, surely if the Government or the Legislature of the country are to be under the direction of the people, we must have the people properly represented and their will accurately expressed in the Legislature. If we know, as we all know, what has been going on in connexion with legislative bodies throughout the British Empire - that for years and years phases of thought in social and political movements have had absolutely no representation whatever in the Legislature, although there are large numbers of persons who hold those opinions, we must come to the conclusion that it is essential that an alteration of our system of representation should be made, so that every shade of opinion, as far as possible, may be represented. Of course, it is impossible for every shade of opinion to be represented, and this system does not ask that any shade shall be represented unless it has attained to such dimensions that it can command a quota of the electors. If a body of opinion can command a quota of the electors, it is a denial of everything which lies at the root of true representation to say that that body shall have no representation. If we wish to have our Parliament made a true reflex of the opinion of the people, we must abandon once and for all the system of the block vote, a system which is absolutely uncertain in its operation and its results, and which leads at best to a majority only being represented. It is a system, indeed, which may result even in a compact minority alone being represented, and which leads not only to misrepresentation either by the majority or the minority, but also to all sorts of wire-pulling and log-rolling and combinations . to secure such effects. The moral aspect of the question is one with which, perhaps, we have very little to say, because, I suppose that, as long as there are elections there will be devious ways of conducting them wherever possible. But the present system often puts an elector in this position : that he is compelled to support one or the other of the two dominant parties in politics, not because he believes in either of them, but because he thinks one or other of them -will have a better chance of giving him what he wants to carry out his particular views. Is it not very much better, more honest, and more in accordance with the true representation of the people, that a person, if he belongs to. a body of opinion which can secure a quota, should have his own representative there to voice his opinions ‘! The effect of this proportional representation will be that we shall be able to secure the representation of the true majority; that a majority will be represented by its true value, and no more. Any minority which is large enough to have a quota will be represented, and, therefore, the Legislature will be a true reflex of opinion outside. There are other matters which are of considerable importance in this measure, but to which I intend to refer very briefly. There is a provision for cutting down election expenses. Election expenses under the Bill are restricted in the case of candidates for the Senate to £250, and in the case of candidates for the House of Representatives to £100. There are provisions which indicate in what direction that expenditure must take place, and failure to observe the regulations is made an electoral offence punishable under the Act. I hear some indications of amusement among honorable senators with regard to the insertion of this provision. It is not, however, a new one ; it exists in other countries. It has been canvassed and discussed over and over again in all the States, and it is simply because it is new that some people tell us that it cannot be carried out. If we tate the position in Great Britain as an illustration of the necessity for a provision of this kind, we find that the expenses of an election there make entry into the House of
Commons absolutely prohibitive in the case of a man who has not the command of large sums of money. That is an instructive illustration ; but the same thing applies more or less throughout the Commonwealth. If we wish to secure a true reflex of the opinions of the electors, we must have not only a system of proportional representation, but a system which will not allow the choice of the electors to be handicapped for no other reason than the inability of a candidate to find the enormous amount of money required to enable him to compete with, other candidates. There is no reason why this provision should not be carried out. Once it becomes law it will be carried out, and it will have the result of reducing very considerably the cost of elections. In doing that it will improve very much the morality of electioneering tactics, because, if there is one thing more than another at the bottom of corrupt practices in connexion with elections it is the abundant use of money. There are other provisions in the Bill to which I do not think it necessary to refer in detail at this stage.
– What about voting by post 1
– I have indicated our proposals in that direction, and I think the honorable senator will consider it unnecessary for me to refer to them at greater length, unless there is. some particular matter upon which he seeks information.. I leave the Bill in the hands of the Senate believing that honorable senators will realize that this system of election, in its foundation, in its franchise, is the broadest and most liberal that it is possible to have in any community. If the system of election which we have asked for in this Bill is adopted, it will be the most truly representative of any system which has been devised. It would indeed be to the credit, of. the Commonwealth, carrying out this experiment in democracy on the largest scale and under the best possible conditions, if it were able to introduce and carry into effect what has been for years the -wish of advanced political writers, and of enthusiasts like my honorable and learned friend Senator Best and others, who have striven for years and years to bring about the true aim of representative institutions. - the proper representation of the constituencies. I am sure this measure will receive the fullest consideration. I hope that the novelty of some of the proposals contained in it will not be regarded as a sufficient answer to them. I believe I am appealing now to legislators who have considered these problems over and over again, and who know the history of them in different parts of the world. That belief has made my task very much easier. I leave the Bill in the hands of the Senate, believing, although some slight modification of different portions of it may be made in committee - and I shall always be glad to listen to any suggestion which will really improve the Bill - that substantially it will pass through the Legislature, as providing a system of representation which will give the people of the Commonwealth, in their Legislature a true reflex of their own opinions, and will be worthy of the Legislature of the Commonwealth itself.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clemons) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30tb January, vide page 9476).
Clause 21 -
Every such officer-shall be entitled, if of the age of 2.1 years, to a salary of £110 per annum, provided lie has been employed for u period of not less than three years in the public service, of which one year has been in such division, and shows by passing the prescribed examination that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which the salary of that amount is attached.
– I am glad that the committee have decided that this clause shall be further considered. When it was before us on a previous occasion an effort was made to exempt from further examination certain persons who will benefit under the minimum wage proposal. Many officers in the clerical division, to which this clause relates, have already passed an examination, and I hope that the majority of honorable senators will agree with me that those who have done so, or who have been in the service for many years, should not be required to undergo an examination to entitle them to the minimum wage. I feel somewhat strongly on this matter, believing as I do that it would be unfair to require officers, many of whom have been in the service for 27. years, to pass an examination 27 m 2- in order to become entitled to the minimum wage of £110 a year. In some cases that would be exceedingly cruel. Some of the females in the clerical division have been employed in the service from 15 to 27 years. The bulk of them when entering the service were required to undergo a rather rigid examination educationally and technically, and surely they should not be required to undergo any further tests. I move -
That the following words be added to sub-clause* (6) : - “2fo examination shall be prescribed forofficers who have passed an entrance examination for this division of the public service, or who havebeen in this division of the service for a period of not less than five years at the date o£ the passing of this Act.”
– I gather from Senator. Glassey’s speech that, in moving this amendment, he is under a slight misapprehension, which may be shared by some other honorable senators. He seems to consider that under the provision in subclause (6), an officer would be required topass an examination similar to that which, he or she passed on entering the service.
– I do not say that it would be the same examination.
– As Senator Glassey has said, an officer, before entering the civil service, has to pass an examination, and it may be a very stiff one. All that this subclause provides, however, is that, before hissalary is increased to £110 a year, heshall pass an examination showing thathe is capable of performing the duties of his office. For example, a man may havepassed the entrance examination and gained a position in which he receives £70 or £80’ a year-. Is it not reasonable ihat, before hissalary is increased to £110, some proof should be required of him that he is capableof performing the work of his office 1 It seems to me that it would be unreasonable to increase his salary by £40 or £50 a year without any such proof. The clause does not provide, as some honorable senators seem to. think, that officers who have passed the entrance examination and have remained in the service for a great number of years, shall be required to pass another examination of the same kind before they receive this salary. It is only required here that these officers shall pass an examination to show that they are capable of performing the duties of their, office.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).So far as I can gather, the object of the Postmaster-General as set out in the clause, and ‘the object of Senator Glassey as set out in his amendment, are practically the same. They both appear to desire that an official who has been a stated time in the service shall not be required to undergo an educational or scholastic examination. The Postmaster-General affirmed, and I quite agree with him, that an officer should give some evidence of his fitness for the receipt of a certain salary, and the discharge of the duties of the office to which it is attached. Senator Glassey does not dissent from that. I think I can make a suggestion, which will meet the difficulty, and which will have the advantage of making two portions of the Bill harmonise. The Postmaster-General proposes to submit an amendment to clause 25, in which these words occur - “ Or otherwise lie satisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work.” My suggestion is that these words should also be inserted in sub-clause (G) of clause 21. If that proposal is accepted, the commissioner will be free either to direct an examination, which I submit should be of a practical nature, as to the work to be done, or he may from his knowledge of the efficiency of the officer declare that he is satisfied as to his capacity.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I think Senator Millen has struck the point. I have always contended, and I hope other senators are of the same opinion, that service should count for something. We recognise that in Queensland, and in the case of engine-drivers, a certain number of years’ service entitles an officer to a certificate of efficiency without it being necessary for him to pass an examination. We recognise the same principle in our mining laws in Queensland, and the same thing has been recognised in Great Britain. It is admitted that a certain number of years’ service is practically equivalent to an examination, scholastic or technical. There are a great many persons of whom many are women, who have been a very long time in the public service. Some have been over 27 years in the service and are approaching 50 or 60 years of age, and the bulk of them passed an examination on entering the service. In my opinion, to ask those persons to come up again and pass a scholastic, or even a technical examination, would be manifestly unjust. But as to the necessity of their giving some proof to the commissioner of their ability to continue to perform their duties, I can assure Senator Millen that I have no objection whatever to that. I think that is quite reasonable. But I hold that the very fact that they are doing their work day after day, and year after year, with a report from the head of their department to the commissioner that the work is done in a satisfactory manner, is all that should be required. I have therefore no objection to the suggestion made by Senator Millen to harmonize clause 21 with the proposal of the Government in connexion with clause 25 dealing with the general division.
– I entirely object to the clause, and to clause 25 also. We passed the Commonwealth Bill, and asked the public to assent to it, and we may agree that they did assent to it on the assumption that its provisions would be fairly adhered to, especially in regard to questions of expenditure. At the same time we were studiously careful to provide that* the transferred services which would represent, as of course they do, nearly the whole of the public service of the Common,ealth, should be taken over on terms fair to the Commonwealth, fair to each of the States, and fair to the officers. We provided in our Constitution that the departments should be taken over from the States with all their liabilities, and that the public servants in those departments should have all the advantages of their existing position. If, under any State law, they were entitled to retiring allowances after a certain number of years’ service, we provided that they should get them in the Commonwealth service at the expiration of the same time. If they were entitled to any benefit, whether in the. form of holidays, or in any other form, they were to retain every right just as if the Constitution Act bad not been passed. The basic principle upon which the people wei3 appealed to, and assented to the Commonwealth Bill, was that the civil service of -the Commonwealth should, at its initiation at all events, practically be, so far as the liability of the public was concerned, the existing liability of each State, in respect of the departments taken, over. To prevent that working unjustly to the Commonwealth itself, it was alsoput to the people, as provided by the Constitution, that there should be a proportionate division between the Commonwealth and the States of the expenses which the Commonwealth had to incur. That was the understanding upon which we entered upon government under this Constitution. That was the understanding ‘upon which we asked the people to assent to it, and upon which they did assent to it, whether we asked them or not. Yet one of the very first proposals of the Public Service Bill which we are seeking to pass now, is to depart from the terms of the Constitution, and not merely to retain all their benefits for the civil servants taken over, as expressely provided by the Constitution, but to put further expense upon the Commonwealth, and through the Commonwealth upon the States, in respect of the identical persons who were supposed to be taken over by the Commonwealth on the terms existing at the time. We have had some figures submitted, and while I agree with Senator McGregor, and other honorable senators, that it is very difficult to give the figures even approximately, we know with absolute certainty that the carrying out of the present proposal will involve a “large additional expense to each State in connexion with the public service beyond what was contemplated by the people of any State at the time the Commonwealth Bill was assented to. Thus almost our first legislative act under the Constitution is to go one better than the Constitution and seek to put upon the States a large liability which they were never consulted about, and to which they never assented. I say that it is not fair that one of our first legislative acts should be to depart from the understanding upon which the Commonwealth Constitution was accepted by the people whom we represent. Beyond all that I object to the clause. It is a declaration that any man or woman who has served from the age of 18 years to the age of 21 years is, from the mere fact of that service, without reference to merit or anything else, entitled to get £110 a year. I heard the ingenious speech of Senator Clemons, and I agree with his conclusions.
– But the honorable and learned senator opposes it straight out.
– So do I.
– There is no mistake about the views of my honorable friends on the labour bench. They propose that after a service of three years, an officer, man or woman, fool or competent, shall, if 21 years of age, receive £110.
– No, be fair.
– I am going to be fair. One effect of putting a thing fairly is to provoke accusations of unfairness. Senator Clemons says insinuatingly - “ Just see how badly this will work for those whom you propose to benefit. The Ministry will weed out persons approaching 21 years of age and appoint others, and so nobody will ever have this three years’ service, which is to culminate in a salary of £110. See how unfair ‘it will be to the civil servants, and what a lot of trouble it will give to the Government.” I need scarcely say that my honorable friends on the labour bench do not propose anything of the kind. They propose, in fact, to make it illegal for the Government to remove a man simply because he is going to get £110 a year. I think they are quite right, too, if it comes to that. That is to say, if the law is that a man having served three years shall get £110 a year, it would be a monstrously unfair thing to dismiss him for the purpose of evading the responsibility of the law which would give him that benefit.
– Of course it would. But could they not dismiss him a month after he attains the age of 21 years?
– Probably they might afterwards, but that would depend upon the terms of the Public Service Act.
– “Unless the statute says that an officer shall continue to hold his office he may be dismissed at any moment.
– I do not think so. There’ is such a thing as precise law, and such a thing as practical administration.
– They did it in Tasmania. They dismissed a man there, and he brought an action, and the courts, including the highest court, held that the Crown could dismiss any civil servant at any moment.
– Then I am afraid my honorable and learned friend must have been acting for the Crown. The civil service is not managed by strict reference to what the courts would decide if appealed to. It is regulated by the broader principles which the Parliament practically determines, and if Parliament said that men or women were to get £110 a year simply because they had served three years and attained their majority, I am certain that they could not be removed on that account, and if they were removed ostensibly on some other account, but really on that account, a strict investigation would result, and the Government would have to do what the Parliament intended. Is it a proper thing to say, without reference to merit or any other cause, that simply because you have retained a person in your service from the age of eighteen to the age of 21 who is not fit for very superior work that should entitle’ him arbitrarily to be paid any specific sum, and still less a specific sum so high as £110 a year ? Many civil servants, of course, get more than that sum, and it is willingly given ; many of them get less and are entitled to less, and it is willingly taken ; but we are -asked to handicap the ordinary process of government by making a hard-and-fast provision which will prove impracticable and will work nothing but injustice. We had one illustration given to us, that of a man 30 years old doing a boy’s work, for which he got 15s. a week. Why not, if he was only fit to do a boy’s work ? He could live on 15s. a week. To indulge humanity in this sort of fashion is impracticable, and, in my opinion, it can do no possible good. The Government propose a middle course - to retain the clause, but to put in an amendment that a person who has attained the age of 21 years, and served three years, shall pass an examination, or otherwise satisfy the commissioner that he is fit to receive a salary of £110 a year. The wording of the amendment is that he is to hold an office to which a salary of £110 a year is attached. I would rather have the amendment than nothing, because the clause i is so bad that it will be well to limit it in any way we can. I would, however, prefer the clause to be struck out. If the Government had for every officer an office to which a salary of £110 was attached there would be no difficulty, but to make this provision is putting on the statute-book something which looks as if it would concede the principle, but which is practically intended to take it away. I shall support the amendment to clause 25, which will minimize the effect of what, I think, is a mischievous provision ; but I shall oppose the clause.
– It is, no doubt, very true that at the time of the elections, and previously, there was a general understanding that the Commonwealth Government would keep a pretty tight hand on expenditure, in order that the burdens of the States might not be increased. At the same time, I think that in most of the States it was assumed that civil servants, on being transferred to the Commonwealth service, would in no case be placed under any disadvantage, and, also, that where an effort was made to equalize salaries, it would be in the direction of levelling up. As things have worked out on the estimates, and in our legislation, it does happen that the expenditure in respect of the transferred departments has shown a tendency to continually increase.
– There is no reason why we should continue that 1
– No; but there has been a very strong feeling expressed in each House that increases should be made, and clauses have, been put into other Bills which will have the effect of increasing the expenditure in other departments. We may regret that an additional burden should be put on the States, but it seems to me that we have to make the best of the situation. The minimum wage portion of this clause has been accepted already by the committee without any protest, and the amendment we are now considering is one by Senator Glassey, in which he raises the question of whether it is desirable that a person who has been in the service for a considerable time should be required to pass an examination before receiving this increase in his salary. It has been suggested by Senator Millen as a compromise that we should adopt the words -of the amendment it is proposed to insert in clause 25, so as to put the men in the two divisions on the same basis. The intention of the clause is merely that before the increase of salary is given the person who is occupying a certain position shall satisfy the commissioner in some way that he or she is capable of performing the duties of that office.
– Cannot it be done by getting a certificate from the head of the department t
– lt might be done in one way or the other. This is not an examination of an educational character, but simply an examination of the work which the person is doing. The method by which it will be ascertained may, and probably will, be a very simple one. I have had some conversation with my colleagues on the subject, and I do not think there is the slightest fear that any difficulty will arise or that any hardship will be inflicted on any one. I am quite willing to accept the suggestion of Senator Millen.
– I wish to have it made quite clear that this is to be an examination of the work done; but from the wording of the amendment it would appear that it must be an examination of the officer.
– It will be an examination of the officer to show that he is capable of performing the work of his office.
– I understood the Minister to say that it would be an examination of the work which had been done by the officer?
– No ; an examination of the work to which the salary is attached.
– What necessity is there to have an examination? If Senator Millen’s suggestion were adopted, it would be left entirely to the commissioner. The clause would merely say that the commissioner should decide whether or not an officer should receive a certain salary or promotion. It does not.require to be stated in the Bill that there should be an examination. Isee a good deal of inconsistency here. A young girl coming into the general division, and serving for three years, would be entitled to £110 a year, while a woman who had been in the clerical division ten, twelve, or fifteen years, in order to get the same salary, would have to pass an examination. A person who has held an office in the general division with satisfaction to the authorities for ten or twelve years, ought to be able to get £110 a year without an examination, if she is now getting £84 a year. A great many of these women, who are receiving £84 a year, have been in that position for many years. They have passed an examination, theoretical and practical, in telegraphy, and also a competitive examination the same as the men have had to pass. The men have gone long ago to the top of their class, and are getting £200 a year, but the women are paid only £84 a year. That seems to me to be an injustice to the women. When the men have reached a salary of £200 they have not to go through another examination, but the women have to do so in order to get £110, whilst the men are getting £200. Is it not a cruel thing to ask a woman who has been perhaps twenty years in the service, and is no longer young to pass an examination? It is only an act of simple justice after such service to say to a woman - “ You haveperformed your work very well and we will raise your salary to £110 withoutany examination at all.”
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Most of the trouble seems to arise from a difference of opinion as to how the word “examination” would be interpreted by the commissioner. I suggest that it wouldbe an advantage to strike out all the words in reference to examinations, and substitute the words I have previously suggested, that the officer should satisfy the commissioner as to his fitness for a particular office. That would leave the commissioner in a position to carry out an inquiry into the fitness of the officer, and would not suggest to him that he was called upon to submit the officer to an educational examination. The commissioner would understand that he merely had to examine the officer as to his fitness for the position. I ask Senator Glassey to withdraw his amendment in order that I may move to strike out the words “ by passing the prescribed examination,” and then I propose to make the clause read “ and satisfies the commissioner.” That will leave the commissioner himself to determine in what way the examination shall be conducted. It will convey a false impression to the commissioner’s mind if we simply lay upon him the obligation of having an examination, whereas what we want is merely that he shall ascertain that the officer is capable of earning the salary, leaving the commissioner to determine the method in which he is to be satisfied in each particular case.
– The committee ought to consider this matter from a common-sense standpoint. What would honorable senators do if they were employers of labour and wished to advance the men in their service from an inferior to a superior grade ? Would they not ask for efficiency ? Yet some honorable senators are seeking to pass legislation which would destroy efficiency and prevent any meritorious officer from securing recognition. Our legislation should be based upon the principles that pertain in large commercial institutions. In no such institution would the principle of efficiency be given the go-by. But that is what we are proposing to do. Senator Glassey in his good nature is trying to remove all incentive to do well, which should be the keystone of a public servant’s duty. He is endeavouring to prevent that energetic use of a man’s brain which is so necessary to efficiency. His amendment would do more harm than he is aware of. Senator Millen’s proposal has some merit, but he is throwing upon the commissioner a duty which he should not have to perform. The matter is as plain as possible. It should not rest with this officer or that, but the measure should express exactly what it intends to do, and the commissioner should be relieved from being compelled to do something by the political pressure behind him. I have only one object in view, and that is to promote the efficiency of the service, which cannot be done if we take away from a man all incentive to do well. A public servant should be studying the whole of his time and endeavouring to qualify himself for a superior position. Under this amendment there will be no incentive to do so. I hope the Postmaster-General will adhere to his clause which is based upon common sense.
– It is to be regretted that throughout our discussions upon some of these clauses we do not seem to understand one another. As soon as we appear to have arrived at an agreement, some honorable senator gets up and upsets it. I am prepared to accept the suggestion of Senator Millen, but I do not think it is fair for the Government to be continually squeezed.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I wish to say, in answer to the PostmasterGeneral, that I have no desire to protract the discussion on this clause, or to delay the passage of the Bill. I want to see the Bill passed in such a way, however, that it will give to certain persons in the service the benefits which I believe it is the desire of both Houses to confer upon them. I have no wish to weaken the discipline of the service in the slightest degree, but if we are going to confer a benefit on these officers, let us do so without placing an almost impassable obstacle in the way. It is to remove an obstacle of the kind that I have moved my amendment. I do not wish to waive my rights in any way, but I am willing to withdraw my amendment temporarily in order that Senator Millen may move the one which has been indicated by him. Why should not the Minister accept the amendment for the omission of the words relating to an examination t If that is done, my opposition will cease. By the retention of those words in the sub-clause, we practically invite the commissioner to require some rigid examination to be passed by these officers in order to entitle them to the minimum wage. The commissioner should not be allowed to call upon members to undergo an examination when they have passed an examination already. The great bulk of the female employes in the Victorian postal department are employed in a el eiss, the maximum salary of which is £84 per annum, and all that I ask is that they shall receive £110 per annum for the work they are doing now. If I wished to delay the passage” of the Bill, I might show the enormous difference between the position of female civil servants in this and certain other States as compared with those of New South Wales. The comparison would be to the advantage of the latter State. A male employe in Victoria can get up to £200 a year after passing his entrance examination, but female employes doing exactly the same kind of work receive only a maximum salary of £84 per year. Some of these female employes actually relieve men at post-offices who are receiving £264 a year. I am determined that the obstacles in the sub-clause shall not remain if I can help it. What a monstrous thing it is to say to a civil servant - “ We will give you certain benefits, provided that you are able to get over the stile which we are going to erect so high, that it will be practically impossible for you to surmount it.” Clearly, as one honorable senator has said, the intention of the Government is to give with one hand that which they will take back with the other. Many of these officers should have received £110 per annum years ago. I agree with Senator McGregor that the State has been sweating its employés in the past. I trust that that sweating has come to an end, and that justice between sex and sex will now be done. I withdraw my amendment for the present. If the Postmaster-General agrees to omit the words relating to the proposed examination there will be no further opposition to the clause ; if he does not do so, then those who wish to see no obstacle placed in the way of- this proposed benefit must fight every inch of the ground.- > Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the words “ and shows by passing the prescribed examination “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ provided that he satisfies the commissioner.”
– I am in the position now that I took up when Senator Millen first proposed to insert an amendment similar to that which I proposed in clause 25. I agreed to accept the amendment then, and I stand by that agreement ; but I cannot accept the amendment that Senator Millen has just moved. If it were worded as he suggested originally it would leave it open to the commissioner to satisfy himself on the question of fitness either by examination or by any other method. The amendment just proposed would still leave it open to the commissioner to require an examination before he was satisfied that an officer was fit for his work. The only object there could be in making the alteration proposed by Senator Millen is that the deliberate striking out of the work “ examination “ would be understood to imply that the commissioner could not satisfy himself by means of an examination. That is undesirable, because the commissioner might only be able to satisfy himself as to the fitness of an officer for his work by means of an examination. Under the amendment originally suggested by Senator Millen the commissioner would be justified in asking an officer in charge of any department to say whether a particular officer was capable of performing his work, and upon the officer’s certificate he would be satisfied. There would be anr examination in that case. Why should these words be struck out, in order, apparently, to. insure that no examination shall be held, when in some cases it would be almost impossible for the commissioner to satisfy himself as to the fitness of an officer except by some form of examination ? It has been suggested that the certificate of the officer should be accepted. How could the certificate be given unless some examination was required?
– Is not the officer doing the work every day ?
– Supposing an inspector called at an office to see whether the man in charge was capable of doing his work, how could he ascertain that fact without an examination? Some honorable senators appear to think that the meaning of the word “ examination “ is limited to some process under which a person is required to sit down and answer certain papers. The word, however, may have the widest possible meaning, therefore I fail to see why these words should be omitted. If I had objected to the amendment first indicated by Senator Millen, no doubt it would have been strongly pressed upon me, but because the Government agreed to accept it a further objection is raised in the amendment.
– Not an objection but an improvement.
– Senator Millen is now taking exception to the very amendment which he asked me to accept a little while ago.
– I think we are all of one mind in , regard to what should be done in this matter. The Postmaster-General has told us that all that is required in order that an officer may receive £110 per annum under this clause is that the commissioner shall satisfy himself that the -man is competent to do the work of the office to which he may be going, or of the office which he holds. By the use of the words “prescribed form of examination” one is led to infer that the officer will be required to pass a strict examination in order to become entitled to £110 per annum. We have argued before, that having passed the educational test necessary for entrance into the service, subsequent examinations should be merely to test the ability of an officer to perform the duties of his office. I think the amendment proposed by Senator Millen meets the case entirely. There is nothing in it to require an officer to pass a fixed examination. If I have a man working under me I am able, without putting him through any examination, to say whether he is fit for a higher grade or to continue in his present position. The commissioner may satisfy himself as to the fitness of an officer by interviewing the officer in charge of his department, and learning from him whether the man is doing his work well. If he is satisfied of that, the man should be entitled to the £110 a year. I am satisfied that if we leave out the words “ prescribed examination,” and insert the words suggested by Senator Millen, we shall accomplish all that is desired by both the Postmaster-General and Senator Glassey, and it is not necessary to argue the matter more fully.
– -It is just as well that we should understand where we are gettingto, and what really is the principle underlying the clause and these different amendments. I was exceptionally gratified to hear the speech made by Senator Glassey on the resumption of business after lunch. The honorable senator made it perfectly clear that the real proposition of himself and his friends is that this minimum wage is to be paid entirely irrespective of office, capacity, fitness, or anything of that kind. It is to be dependent on two conditions and two only - three year’s service and the attainment of 21 years of age. That has been made as plain as plain can be, and it is vain for us to try to misunderstand what the proposition is. Then comes in the qualifications proposed, that this minimum salary may not be associated with the particular office which the public servant at the moment holds. It may be that in the particular division or grade of the service in which he is engaged the highest salary is that which he is then receiving, £75 per annum or some such sum. But the qualification is that he is to receive a wage of £1 10 a year, provided he shows his capacity or fitness for the higher grade or higher position with which that particular minimum salary would be associated in the ordinary way. That is the effect of the amendment. It is to impose one more condition, namely, fitness for an office to which a salary of £110 a year is attached. Whether we’ agree to that or not, it is in absolute conflict with the principle which Senator Glassey and his friends are seeking to establish - -that irrespective of any qualification of fitness or capacity for an office to which a salary of £110 is atttched, every officer, man or woman, who, on the attainment of 2.1 years of age has been three years in the service, is to get £110. Personally, I entirely dissent from that doctrine. It is a doctrine which absolutely offers a premium to incapacity, and it may lead to a very large number of persons in the public service, unfit for an office to which that salary is attached, being in receipt of it. In connexion with this amendment as it originally stood, there was to be a prescribed examination in respect of the fitness of an officer of the public service, not for the office which he at present fills, but for the higher office to which there is no opportunity of promotion, but the salary of which he is to enjoy without doing the work.
– It may be the same office, but the salary would be attachedto it under the operation of the Bill.
– The proposal is that an officer is not to have this salary unless he shows his fitness, not for the work he is at present engaged upon, but for the work of an office to which that higher salary is attached.
– Not the higher work. The honorable and learned senator will not find that in the clause. It may be the same work, and the office would then become an office to which a salary of £110 was attached.
– Then there is nonecessityfor this amendment atall. If I were persuaded of that, I would support Senator Glassey. I am convinced, however, that what is intended is an examination to show that the officer is capable of doing the work of an office to which a salary of £110 is attached. It is assumed that an officer who has attained the age of 21 years is in an office, the work of which does not warrant a salary of £110.
– But it would under this clause.
– It would, of course, because the officer is 21 years of age, and has been three years in the service, and under the clause there is a hard-and-fast rule established that he shall get £110 a year whether he is fit for the work of a higher office or not, and whether or not he is retained in an office doing work which is not worth more than £75 a year. He may have been three years in a department doing the work of an office boy, and be unfortunately fit only for an office boy’s work at 21 years of age ; yet he must get £110. The misapprehension that seems to have arisen is that what this examination is for is to satisfy the commissioner that an officer is doing the work in which he is engaged satisfactorily. It is nothing of the kind. It is to enable the commissioner to ascertain whether the officer could do the work of a higher grade in respect to which there is no vacancy, and in respect to which the minimum salary is £110 a year. The thing is absolutely monstrous. The original proposition of the minimum wage is bad enough from the point of view of many of us, because it establishes a rigid rule that £1 10 a year shall be paid to a youth when he .reaches the age of 21 years. The only reason I have heard advanced in favour of it is that, whatever his capacity for work may be, it will assist his capacity to get married. It is proposed to super-add a condition that by examination the commissioner is- to ascertain that, say 100 of these officers is fit’ for a higher class of work to which a salary of £110 is attached, and although there is no work of that kind for them to do, he is to keep these supernumeraries on doing the inferior work and is to pay them the higher salary. Assuming their capacity, as I do, for performing the superior work, it is like using a razor to do the work of a hatchet, and in ordinary business the proposition would not bear investigation for a moment. What we are asked to do by the amendment is to make the original proposition still more objectionable, by the adoption of a system by which we shall declare that these men in the service are fit for higher work, are not required to do it, and because the departments in which this higher work is done are over-manned, we are going to pay these officers the higher salary for nothing. If the Commonwealth can stand that kind of thing for many years, it will be exceedingly pleasant for the public servants, and very awkward for the taxpayers. Senator Downer says he is disposed to support anything which minimizes the original trouble. Undoubtedly this proviso will mitigate it in this respect - that it will interpose what Senator Glassey calls another barrier to the carrying out of what is the plain object of himself and his friends. It will put it in the power of the Commonwealth authorities under this Bill to prevent that object taking effect. I hope that Senator Millen will not persist in his re-edited amendment, and if he does propose the insertion of the words “or otherwise satisfy the commissioner” he will insert them after the words “prescribed examinations” in the form in which he originally proposed the amendment. The first effect of that would be that it will bring the clause into harmony with what is proposed in clause 25, and, secondly, it would indicate to the commissioner the kind of thing he ought to do in order to satisfy himself. This matter ought not to be left to a mere rule of thumb ; there ought to be something in the nature of an investigation. I do not suppose ; the examination means sitting down to write a series of papers on some subject, or an elementary examination such as has to be passed before any one can enter the service. That examination is no test of capacity. It .is merely an examination in substance as to knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic. The amendment willtend more to defeat the object of the minimum wage than the retention of the words “prescribed examination,” because the prescribed examination would have to be prescribed by regulation, and everybody would have an opportunity, if he wished, of bringing the regulations under the notice of Parliament. But, in addition to that, if you simply provide that the commissioner shall satisfy himself as to the capacity or fitness of the officer, you will leave it entirely, on the face of the statute, to his ipse dixit as to whether he shall give the officer a .higher salary, and if he is a gentleman, as he might think, inspired by a high sense of public duty, and the necessity for securing economy and the efficiency of the departments, he will be tempted to say that those who want £110 a year because they have attained their majority, are not fit for the higher work to which that salary is attached. On the other hand, he may tremble in his shoes because of the fear of some outcry being made by the friends of the discontented civil servant in Parliament. Look at the position in which this places the commissioner. On the one hand, by leaving it as it is, you indicate a prescribed examination, and no doubt the Government will see that regulations are framed defining with some certainty the course that ought to be followed to comply with these conditions. On the other hand, if you leave it entirely open, you do not prevent the commissioner from having an examination, as Senator Playford interjected. He may adopt exactly the same course, or he may say, “ I do not want any examination. I know all about it ; I am going to decide the matter off-hand. We do not wish to pay £110 to a number of men who are not doing work of that value, and who are not worth a penny more than they are paid.” I feel that Senator Millen may well -reconsider his amendment, and I would ask Senator Glassey to consider whether the amendment should not be left in the shape first Suggested. I frankly admit that his position is abso;lutely right, that the principle which has been established hy the clause is that of a minimum wage payable on two conditions.
– And the other condition?
– The third condition is an infringement on it, but it minimizes the effect of the other, and to that extent I am with it in principle, at any rate, whatever I may be in form.
– The effect of listening to the speeches of Senator Drake and Senator Symon has been to furnish me, if I needed it, with additional reasons for standing to my ground.
– To the second ground.
– I wish I could compliment the Government on never having changed their ground more than twice. Senator Drake urged that even if we omitted the words “by passing the prescribed examination,” the commissioner could still call for an examination - and there I agree with him - but he followed that up by remarking that their omission would be an indication to the commissioner not to proceed by examination. Where is the indication? I contend that if the words were omitted he would be left free to pick his own methods without any indication.
– Do we not leave him free if we put in the words ?
– No, by keeping in the words we direct his attention to that form of inquiring as to the capacity of a candidate. I contend that some discretion should be allowed to the commissioner. Is it to be supposed that he will not know enough of the duties of his office to be able so satisfy himself as to the best methods of inquiring into the fitness of officers ? Under my amendment, if a particular office or officer came before him and it seemed necessary that because of the work attached to the office some examination or inquiry should take place, he would be at liberty to order it. On the other hand, and this would occur in 99 cases out of 100 where the great bulk of the officials were concerned, it would be simply a matter of satisfying himself that the officers possessed the necessary intelligence and capacity and willingness to discharge the duties they were called upon to fulfil. By striking out the reference to examination we leave the commissioner entirely free to satisfy himself by the means which appear best in the view of the circumstances of each case. For that reason I propose to stand by my amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 11
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
– The omission of the words which some of us think so important in order to secure the efficiency of the service places one in rather a perplexing position. I think Senator Symon stated very clearly what will be the effect of the clause. But there is a point which has not yet been mentioned. We are passing the clause in such a clumsy way that I do not suppose any two men will ever agree as to its meaning. The servants in the general division will all have their rights under the Act, according to the judicial interpretation of its provisions ; and however the Government may wish the commissioner to administer this clause, and whatever steps they may take to see that certain salaries are affixed to certain every-day avocations, like sorting letters, or running about with messages, and attending to the telephone exchange, they will find that civil servants will have the right of appealing to the High Court to put a judicial interpretation on what we are doing to-day, and the court will at once say that the provision is a contradiction in terms. While it gives the minimum wage on the one hand, independently of everything except attaining the age of 21 years and serving for three years, on the other hand it tries to modify the meaning of the minimum wage, and the court will have to interpret the contradictory provisions. If the court interprets them in favour of the general division of the service it will cost the Commonwealth the enormous sum of £60,000 a year, as we were told by Senator O’Connor yesterday. This is not the policy of the Government. It has been forced upon them in another place, and they weakly gave way to it. The very best evidence of this fact is that the Estimates do not provide for anything of the kind. Those Estimates will have to be increased to the tune of £46,670 to raise the salaries of officers in the Post-office alone in consequence of this minimum wage provision. In addition to that, I understand from the Minister that £5,000 will have to be added to the Estimates to raise the salaries of those in the Customs department. That makes £51,000, to which has to be added £8,000 or £9,000 for administration. There we have £60,000 which this Bill is going to cost the taxpayers. I again raise my protest against such slipshod, slovenly, and extravagant legislation. I re-echo what Senator Downer said, that it is a breach of faith with those who voted in favour of the Commonwealth Bill at the referendum. The understanding then was that the Federal Government would keep a close hand on the purse-strings. Is that being done 1 What the civil servants of the smaller States were told was, that so far as the transferred departments were concerned, their salaries would be raised to a common level with those of similar officers in the other States, and I do not hesitate to say that the transferred officers in Tasmania and South Australia would derive a considerable benefit from having their salaries raised to that extent. But this minimum wage provision will increase their salaries, I dare say, 33 per cent, beyond what they expected. Are the letter-carriers, the sorters, the telegraph messengers, the ladies at the telephone exchange, the men who look after the telegraph posts, and those who attend to the wires, all to be paid at the level of £110 when they reach the age of 21 1 Is that the ideal of legislation of the labour party ? They are going.to give these youths and girls actually higher wages than half the working men throughout the Commonwealth are receiving.. If that consideration does not move honorable senators, nothing will. I intend now to divide the Senate on the clause. I do not believe that 5 per cent, of the members of the committee understand its meaning. It means that young men and young women entering the service at the age of 16 will get £40 per annum. At 16£ they will get £50; at 17, £60; at 18, £80; at 19, £100; at 20, £120; at 21, £140; and at 22, £160. If a man enters the service at 18, when, in three years, he’ reaches the age of 21, he is to get the minimum wage of £110. Honorable senators cannot point to any such emoluments in any private business. It is the commencement of gross extravagance, and every one of us knows that the work to be done does not justify the salary. Suppose a girl enters the telephone . branch at 18. When she has been there three years, she is to get £110 a year. Can any honorable senators mention any State service where young women are paid such salaries?
– No, because they have been sweated.
– That is the old unfortunate phrase. Howling out the word “sweating” will not help the honorable senator to be a good legislator. He has plenty of brains and experience, and if he will trust ‘ to them, and not to irrelevant interjections, he will do better service. What I suggest is, that when a young man, or a young woman, enters the service at the age of 16, they should get £40, after 12 months £50, in another 12 months £10 more, and when they reach the age of 21, £90 a year. That would be more generous treatment than any State, or any private employer, is giving. How is this provision going to affect the officers who remain in the services of the States ? I say, without, fear of contradiction, that there will be dissatisfaction in every State department, for the simple reason that, the officers there will say that they are dealt with ungenerously and unjustly as compared with their fellow clerks who have been transferred to the Federation. Do we want to commence the Commonwealth by arousing those feelings of jealousy? By this clause we are going to force the hand of every State Treasurer in the Commonwealth.
– Is that what the.honorable and learned senator is afraid of?
– I am, because I know perfectly well that unless our federal finance is. sound, and our expenditure is’ kept within the bounds of moderation, it will re-act upon the Commonwealth, and will bring financial disaster and distress into every corner of Australia. For these reasons I shall divide the committee upon the clause
– We are not wasting time in discussing this clause, upon which there might have been a great deal more debate, and ought to have been more thought. The position seems to me to warrant every word that Senator Dobson has just said. We have provided a carefully graduated scheme by which persons in the service may,, on attaining the age of 21, receive more than £110 a year. But in order to earn that salary they must display merit. Having provided that for the worthy, we are now proceeding to discount what we have done by offering a premium to the indolent and the unworthy. We say to them - “ If you do not want to get to £140 a year, take life as easily as you like. Only do your bare work, taking care that you are guilty of nothing, that will cause you to be dismissed, and even though you are indolent, lazy, and practically worthless, in the mere course of time, upon attaining the age of 21, you will get not quite as good a salary as your worthy confrere, but within £10 a year as much as he receives.” I always understood that the members of the labour party preached the doctrine that the best men should get to the top, but by this legislation they are giving a direct incentive to the unworthy. The diligent officer who, by industry in the exercise of his own qualities and the sacrafice of himself, reaches to a salary of £120, will know that his fellow officer, who has shown none of these qualities, will receive within £10 as much as he does. The tendency will be to cause him not to take any trouble at all.
– Not many men would act in that way.
– I hope not. I hope that some men would not be glad of a clause of this kind. I think so highly of a man who would do his best according to his abilities, and who would endeavour to rise by virtue of his own right arm and his good head, that I trust he would, be opposed, to the policy of those who would encourage the men who, having the same qualities, are too lazy to develop them. Having provided very carefully a scale by which the worthy may obtain more than this, we have provided, without a rating scale and without regard to merit, that those who take no trouble over their work shall receive almost the same salary. We have attached a qualification to that provision, and either it is intended to have some effect or it is not. When we had the word “examination “ in the sub-clause I did not like it. I do not like the provision as it stands. I object to the whole thing. But what was the meaning of the provision with the word “examination” in it?’ The examination was to show really that the officer in question was qualified for an office which did not exist or in which there was no vacancy. In. other words, it required that when a man entered the civil service and reached the’ age of 21 an office worth £110 per annum should be found for him or that he should receive the salary whether the work he had to do was worth it or not. Now we have attached a provision, leaving it to the commissioner to say whether he is satisfied that the man is worth the extra salary. The commissioner has to be satisfied that the officer is suited for an office the salary attached to which is £110 per annum. If such an office is vacant the man obtains it, and there is no trouble, but he is to be paid £110 per annum, even although there may be no such office vacant to which he may be appointed. What system could live when handicapped by such a provision as that ? It is not only rotten in principle, but it gives the commissioner a power which if exercised would nullify the intention of the clause. The commissioner would be able to say, rightly or wrongly - “ This man is not worth more than £80 a year, and therefore he shall not receive more.” We have inserted a provision by which the commissioner, governed by no principle and following simply his own opinion, may say - “ I am not going to bother about this matter ; this man is not worth more than the £80 a year which I am paying him at present.” That is not only bad in principle, but practically an evasion of the understanding on which we were sent here. I admit that the labour party is not responsible for that understanding, because they did not bring about federation; they were against it.
– Not at all.
– Perhaps it is not correct to say that all the labour party were against federation; but whether we were all equally in favour of it or not we were certainly returned on the basis of the Constitution Act which, whilst carefully preserving the rights of the public service, provides that we must not immediately place a huge responsibility upon the States which did not exist at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth, while at the same time retaining all the responsibilities which they had in the past.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 14
Noes … … …8
Majority … …6
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 -
– I move -
That all the words after the word “commissioner,” line 11,be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: - “Every person so transferred shall, so far as seniority for promotion is concerned, be placed at the bottom of the class to which he is transferred, but he shall be entitled to the same salary as that which he received immediately before such transfer, and after a period’ of twelve months’ service in the clerical division he shall be entitled (if such salary be less than the. maximum of the class to which he has been so transferred) to receive the ordinary annual increment of such class until the maximum hasbeen reached.
Honorable senators will remember that at a. previous stage I showed the unfairness with which officers transferred from the general to the clerical division would be treated under this provision. If the clause stands as printed, a letter carrier, for example, who is receiving a salary of £120 or £130 a year in the general division, may qualify for examination for the clerical division and become eligible for transfer, but he willhave to enter the clerical division at a salary less than that which he was receiving at the time of transfer. We are opening the door of the clerical division to officers in the general division, and yet at the same time we are shutting them out by asking them to accept a smaller salary on enter-, ing.
– Not necessarily.
– I think that an examination of the clause will bear out my statement. If an officer in the general division qualifies for examination, and becomes eligible for transfer to the clerical division, he should certainly enter that division at the rate of salary received by him at the date of transfer, but he should beplaced at the bottom of the class so far as promotion is concerned. The amendment which I desire to insert in the clause is part of section 52 of the Victorian Public Service Act 1890. This difficulty cropped up inregard to transferred officers in the Victorian service, and a like condition will arise in regard to the lower paid officers, of the Commonwealth service. We ought not to place a barrier in the way of officers receiving low salaries by asking them practically to take a reduction of salary upon transfer from the general to the clerical division. I think that the fairest method to adopt is to allow them to go into the clerical division at the salary which they are receiving at the time of the transfer, and I hope my amendment will be carried.
– The arguments in regard to this amendment are very similar to those used on a previous occasion, upon sin amendment dealing with the method of entrance into the clerical division. Senator Barrett has looked upon the matter almost exclusively from the point of view of the officers in the general division, and he has lost sight of the interests of the officers in the clerical division. The clerical division is recruited from young fellows of about eighteen years of age, who pass an examination and then gradually work their way up. The question really is under’ what conditions the ranks of the clerical division may be invaded by the entrance of officers from the general division. What the Bill proposes is that officers in the general division may make their way into the clerical division, but if they do so they must start at a salary of £110 a year. That is the point at which the door is opened to men in the general division for entrance into the clerical division.
– And that will shut out good men.
– What Senator Barrett seeks to achieve by his amendment is that where an officer in the general division is receiving a salary higher than £110, and he comes into the clerical division, he shall take with him the salary he was receiving in the general division, and shall be classified with officers in the clerical division receiving the same salary, with the proviso only that he must go to the bottom of that subdivision or class for purposes of promotion. To put him in that position will be to interfere with the prospects of young fellows in the clerical division who are working their way up. Take the instance referred to by Senator Barrett, of a letter-carrier enjoying a salary of £120 a-year. He makes application to be put in the clerical division. Under Senator Barrett’s proposal he would go into the clerical division, and carry his salary of £120 with him. But he would go to the bottom of the class. Still, honorable senators will see that he would be placed above all the young fellows who have worked upf rom the bottom, and are then in the enjoyment of a salary of £1 10 a year. It is clear that the entrance of an officer from the general division into the clerical division under this proposal distinctly interferes with the prospects of officers in the clerical division in receipt of £110 a year. That is putting the matter from the point of view of the clerical division. I think that what should determine us in deciding the matter should be the general question of policy. Is it desirable that in this clerical division the ranks should be recruited from young fellows trained up from the bottom 1 We think it is. It is from the ranks of the clerical division that the ranks of the administrative division are to be recruited, and it is most desirable that young fellows destined for that branch of the service should come in at an early age. We think that it is not advisable, on grounds of policy, that the clerical division should be recruited in the way proposed, from the general division. We think that if officers in the general division are encouraged to enter the clerical division, and take places over the heads of young fellows working up in the clerical division, it will have a detrimental effect upon that division, by discouraging young fellows from entering it with a view to working their way up in the service. The better we make their prospects the more likely we are to have a continuous stream of recruits for the ranks of the clerical division. For these reasons, I think it is not desirable that the amendment should be accepted.
– I do riot think there is much force in the PostmasterGeneral’s opposition to this amendment. A letter-carrier, a stamper, or sorter in the post-office has many opportunities of doing a considerable amount of clerical work. I speak from experience of the postal department, in which I worked some years ago.
– There are many of them doing clerical work.
– A considerable number of the letter-carriers, stampers, sorters, and male receivers and despatchers have to do clerical work, but they are not in the clerical division. One of these officers may be receiving the maximum salary of the division, from £130 to £140 a year, and he may wish to advance. It is impossible for him to advance so long as he remains in the general division, and it is impossible for him to advance so long as the law remains as it is. Such a man, from his experience, and from the knowledge he has already gained of clerical work, could do the work of the clerical division more effectively than an ordinary young man who may have been a few years in that division. There are men in the general division who have an ambition to rise, and who are equipping themselves every day for advancement, and they should be given an opportunity by the removal of these barriers. Would it be fair to put a man of this class, getting £130 a year in the general division, into the clerical division, and ask him to go back to the minimum salary of £110 a year? Of course it would not. Such a man has been earning £130 a year - and more than earningit, for he has worked every hour he could at clerical work in order to fit himself to go forward, and he will be capable of rendering the State better service than any ordinary young man who has been in the clerical division for a few years. There is a great deal of justice and fair play in Senator Barrett’s amendment. I remind the Postmaster-General that in 1897 wo amended our Civil Service Act in Queensland, and fortunately for a great number of persons, I was instrumental in having an amendment inserted, giving an opportunity to persons employed in the general division of the Postal department, in consequence of the process of training to which I have alluded, to advance in the service, without having to undergo any examination at all. The insertion of that provision in the Queensland Public Service Act benefited 157 persons in the Post and Telegraph department of that State.
– And kept back an equal number of persons in the clerical division ?
– I do not think it did, because these men were well trained and equipped to go forward, but the law as it previously stood was ‘in the way of their advancement. To say that these men have not gone through the ordinary course and have not started as boys at the bottom, is all humbug. I entered the service as a letter carrier at over 40 years of age. If I had not desired to stop in the department only for a certain time, I would have equipped myself for advancement, but without some such provision as this I could never have advanced. I support the amendment from my own observation and experience in the Postal department in Queensland.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In clause 41 it is provided that persons can transfer from the general division to the clerical, professional, or administrative division. What does that provision mean J It means that a person in the general division, if he is qualified and is transferred to the administrative division, where salaries range from £400 or £500 a year-
– We omitted paragraphs (d), (e), and (f).
– But paragraph (g), which remains, reads -
Transfer or promote from one division to another after such examination as may be prescribed.
The meaning of that paragraph is that an officer can transfer from the general to the professional, administrative, or clerical division after passing the prescribed examination. Unless we insert this amendment of Senator Barrett in clause 21 it will mean that we only make a distinction in the clerical division as regards salary.
– Both the administrative and the professional divisions are recruited from the clerical division.
– Surely the PostmasterGeneral will admit that under clause 41 an officer can transfer from the general division to the administrative or professional division without passing through the clerical division. If you give the right to an officer in the general division, provided that he can pass the prescribed examination, to go into the clerical or professional or administrative division at such salary as the commissioner may think his services are worth, according to the division into which he can pass, why should not the same principle be applied to entrance into the clerical division? It seems to me that the Government are making an invidious distinction. They have already given away the same principle in regard to the two more important divisions, the administrative and the professional. I cannot see why they cannot allow the principle to be inserted in this clause. If honorable senators will refer to sub-clause (4) they will see that the Governor-General has to declare a vacancy, and that then it can only be filled by the holding of a competitive, examination of the same standard as that laid down for the clerical division, and no officer, even if he has passed the examination, can be transferred unless the commissioner gives him authority to transfer. Senator Drake said that the Government wish to fill up these positions with juniors in the clerical division. It will rest with the Minister to see that that is done even if the amendment of Senator Barrett is carried. There can be nothing done without the consent of the Minister, and the head of the department, and the commissioner acting on their instruction can, if he sees fit, prevent any person going from the general division into the clerical division. Surely the Ministry might very well agree to accept the amendment, which is a copy of the provision in the Victorian Act? The fact that Senator Best, who was charged with the administration of that Act, voted in the previous division for the omission of the words, ought to be a good guarantee to the Government that no serious abuse can arise from the adoption of the amendment.
– It seems to me natural that if a man in the clerical division has the professional qualifications he should be promoted to the professional division, but the class of work which is performed in the general division is, speaking broadly, of a different character from the work which is done in the clerical division. Of course, we know that these particular clauses do merge into one another. We know that a man in the general division may qualify for the clerical division, but the connexion between the clerical division and the administrative and professional divisions is very different indeed from the connexion - if there is any - between the general division and the clerical division.
That, to my mind, is the reason for the difference which has been pointed out.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put.
The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 12
Noes……. … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Senate adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 January 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020131_senate_1_7/>.