8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Advances for War Service Homes
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation if he can inform the Senate when the decision of the Government to increase the advance to soldiers under the “War Service Homes
Act from £700 to £800 is likely to be given effect to?
– I anticipate being able to-morrow to submit a notice of motion for leave to introduce a Bill to give effect to that decision.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act. -Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1020, No. 128.
War Service Homes Act. -Land acquired at-
Lewisham West, New South Wales. Lismore, New South Wales.
Senator NEWLAND presented a report from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence relating to proposed alterations and additions to the General Post Office, Adelaide.
Distribution of Government Stocks
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Alleged Restriction of Output
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are : - 1 and 2. I am not aware.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise to make an inquiry in connexion with this Bill before it passes its third reading. When the measure was under consideration in Committee, clause 3, in which there is a definition of “ The Public Service “ was postponed, and I do not remember the clause coming before the Committee again. The clause was postponed in order to enable us to find out whether the Bill would apply to em ployees of the Commonwealth Railways Department. It appeared that the only Departments excluded from the operation of the Bill would be the Military and Naval Departments. Senator Foll raised the question whether the Defence Department would come under the operation of the Bill, and that that might be definitely ascertained was another reason for the postponement of the clause. As I have said, I do not recollect the clause again coming under the consideration of the Committee, and I should like now to be informed as to the Departments that will be brought under the operation of the measure.
– I find, according to the Hansard report of the proceedings in Committee on the Bill, that, after the consideration of the remaining clauses, postponed clauses 3 and 4 were agreed to without discussion.
– -Comment upon the proceedings in Committee is not permissible on the motion for the third reading of a Bill. Where necessary, it should be made at the report stage.
– I should like to know from the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) whether it is intended that the Bill shall apply to the Defence Department, which he controls, and also whether the Railways Department at present controlled under a separate Act by the Commissioner for Railways will come within its scope. Senator Senior .has explained that in Committee clause 3 was postponed in order that honorable senators might obtain information as to the scope of the measure. In the Bill “ The Public Service “ is defined to include all persons, whether permanently- or temporarily employed, and whether under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-1918 or not. I should like to know from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), whose staff must now number some 500 persons, whether his Department will be considered within the scope of this measure. When the Repatriation Bill was under consideration, and again when the measure amending the principal Act was being considered, th© Minister for Repatriation went out of his way to point out how inadvisable it would be to bring the Department he was administering under the Public Service Act. I think we all agreed with the honorable senator’s contention. His main argument was that the activities of the Hepatization Department would be likely to terminate within a comparatively short time, and it was therefore not advisable that persons employed in that Department should be placed in the same position as officers of the permanent Government Departments. I have noticed that Mr. McLachlan in his report on the Public Service refers on page 88 to the question of the Repatriation Department coming under the Public Service ‘Act. I should like to’ know whether the Minister for Repatriation approves of the views given expression to by Mr. McLachlan, and has been converted to the idea that the Repatriation Department should be brought under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– This Bill will not bring them within the scope of the Public Service Act.
– That was what I was anxious to ascertain. Clause 3 provides that - “The Public Service” includes the Public Service of the Northern Territory and of the Territory for the Seat of Government, and the service of any public institution or authority of the Commonwealth, and includes all persons employed in any such service in any capacity, whether ‘permanently or temporarily, and whether under the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1902-18 or not, but does not include persons employed in the Naval or Military Forces only.
The Minister for Repatriation has now informed us that the employees in his Department will not come under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. I should like to know the honorable gentleman’s opinion of Mr. McLachlan’s report, and also the recommendations in that report to which effect is to be given. The present seems an opportune time for honorable senators to be told exactly what branches of the Public Service will, under this Bill, come within the scope of the Public Service Act.
.- The question of whether employees in the Repatriation Department are regarded as part of the Commonwealth Public Service is not in any way affected by this Bill. At an earlier stage in our deliberations upon the measure, Senator DrakeBrockman asked what employees would be in cluded within the scope of the Public Service Act. Thereupon I postponed consideration of the clause, which was then under discussion, in order that we might get a definite opinion upon that question. I obtained that opinion and read it to the Senate. But” for the information of those honorable senators who did not hear it, I will briefly put the position again.
The point has been raised as to whether the Bill covers persons employed on the Commonweal.th Railways., in the Commonwealth Harness Factory, and persons engaged in connection with shipbuilding operations carried on by the Commonwealth. The definition clause contained in the Bill is exactly the same as that appearing in the present Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911. The words “ Public institution or authority of the Commonwealth” will include the Commonwealth Railway Service, the Government Harness Factory, and shipyards carried on by the Commonwealth. If this interpretation is correct, there is no doubt that the Bill covers the persons referred to.
In regard to persons employed on the Commonwealth Railways, there is another’ ground for holding that they are covered by the Bill. Section 47 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917, enacts that the Arbitration (Public Service) Act shall apply to the Railway Service. Clause 11 (5) of the Bill provides that any refer- ence in any Act to the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911, shall be read as a reference to the Bill. It is quite -clear, therefore, that the Bill applies to the Railway Service. Although the employees on the Commonwealth Railways and in the Harness Factory are entitled to form associations and become registered under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act, I understand that they have not largely availed themselves of thi9 right. Apparently, most of them prefer to be-, long to large associations, such as the Australian Workers Union, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Union, and the Saddlers’ Union, which are registered under the ordinary provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Under the ruling which’ I have quoted it seems to me that the employees of the Repatriation Department could avail themselves of the services of the Public
Service Arbitrat who is to be constituted under this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 11th August, vide page 3421) : Clause 5 -
Sections five to eleven (inclusive) of the principal Act are repealed, and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “5. ( 1 ) For the purposes of this Act the Go vernor-General may appoint a Board of Management of three persons, and on the happening of any vacancy in the office of member of the Board the Governor-General shall appoint a person to the vacant office. “11. (1) In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments by -
the establishment of systems of check in order to ascertain whether the return for expenditure is adequate ; “ (2) In relation to all matters specified in the last preceding sub-section, other than paragraph (6) thereof, the Board shall in the first place make its recommendation, report, or suggestion to the permanent head of the Department. “(3) If the permanent head does not ap prove of or adopt the recommendation report, or suggestion he shall within a reasonable time inform the Board of the reasons therefor. . “ (4) Thereupon the Board may, if it thinks fit, make the recommendation, report, or suggestion to the Minister administering the Department in question, and if. the recommendation, report,or suggestion is not approved or adopted by the Minister within a reasonable time, the Board may report the matter to both Houses of the Parliament, either by means of a special report or by inclusion in its annual report.”
– I should be glad to know why the Government propose to appoint one member of the Board for five years, another for four years, and a third for three years.
– To provide for continuity of management.
– That may be so, but usually the members of a Board are appointed for the same period. Personally I am of opinion that five years is too short a tenure, and I would prefer to see the period for which all the members of the Board will be appointed extended to seven years. During the course of the debate upon this Bill it was stated that, if a representative of the Public Service associations were appointed to theBoard, he would naturally keep his eye upon those organizations in order that, at the end of his term, he might secure reelection. In reply it was urged that, if the members of the Board could be reappointed by the Government, they would endeavour to curry favour with Ministers for the same reason. There would be less danger to be apprehended from this source if the term for which: the Board is to be appointed were extended to seven years.
– The answer to the first question put by Senator Thomas is fairly obvious. Differential terms are provided in the case of members of the Board, in order to insure continuity of policy. If all the members of the Board vacated office simultaneously, and it became necessary to make three entirely new appointments, it would be possible to get three members who did not understand the conditions which obtained at the time of their appointment.
asked why the term of appointment should not be for seven years. The answer is that the Bill to a certain extent is an experiment in the management of the Public Service. Some bodies have been appointed in the Commonwealth, such for instance as the Inter-State Commission, for seven years. That Commission was an experiment, as we had never had a similar body, and long before the seven years was up the necessity for constituting it on altogether different lines was apparent to every one.
– That was the outcome of a High Court decision.
– It was partly the outcome of a High Court decision, which could not be foreseen, and partly the outcome of a change in our economic growth, which made it apparent that that body ought to have different powers and a different scope from what was contemplated when it was first established. We have not’ had a Public Service Commissioner for the last five years partly because of the war, tut also largely because’ we knew that the Public Service Act would have to be amended. We could not appoint a Commissioner for less than seven years.
– And he has been acting for nearly six years !
– That is so ; but the reason is that every successive Government realized that no permanent appointment could be made until the Act was amended. This Bill is an experiment, and the Government think it desirable that, at any rate, the earlier appointments should not be for longer periods than the Bill specifies, so as to allow whatever Government is in office when these periods lapse an opportunity, if it thinks fit, to reconsider the policy now being laid down.
– A three years’ appointment will not be very attractive to a really good man.
– It will be an appointment for three years, with the right of re-appointment.
It was also suggested by Senator Thomas that the members of the Board, particularly the one appointed1 for only three years, would be inclined to try to please the Government. What Government is he to try to please? If it is the present Government, what guarantee has any one that it will be in office in three years’ time? If he wants to make sure of reappointment, obviously his duty is to show his competence to the public of Australia.
– But it is the Government and not the public that appoints him.
– But the Government in making these appointments dare not outrage public opinion. If the man appointed for three years made good it would be a very foolish and rash Government that would put some other man in his place. We have seen that that is the case time after time in the appointment of Railways Commissioners, showing that where a man makes good there is no question at all about his re-appointment. Whether it is the Government that first appointed him, or some other Government, that has the decision, he generally gets the position again.
– It all depends on what you mean by “ making good.”
– I mean making good with public opinion by showing that he is able to do his job properly, for that is what counts. I should say that in this case the man who had the three years’ appointment would be the most anxious to show that he was efficient, because he was the first man who would have to stand the test.
. - I suggest that in order to permit of a proper discussion, each proposed new section contained in this clause should be put separately.
– The Standing Orders do not allow me to put a clause in parts.
– Could you not put separately so much of the clause as is on each page ?
– I think that may be done for purposes of discussion, but. the clause as a whole is before the Committee.
– That procedure would be very awkward, because half a paragraph appears at the bottom of page four, and the other half on page five.
– The discussion will be made flexible enough to allow every honorable senator an opportunity to speak to the whole clause. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to permit of a clause being put in parts.
.- The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in quoting the reappointment of Railways Commissioners, used rather an unfortunate illustration. Mr. Fraser is the New South Wales Railways Commissioner, and I think the general public is of the opinion that he has made good; but, if his term were up, and Mr. Storey had the task of appointing a Railways Commissioner, I venture to say that Mr. Fraser would not be re-appointed. Is it the intention’ of the Government to pay all the members of the Board the same salary whether they are appointed for five, four or three years, or to pay the Chairman more than the other two ?
– There is to be a difference of £500.
-Then I take it that the Chairman will be expected to be rather abler than the other two. That being so, will the other two be in a position to outvote the chairman? I think I am correct in saying that if the New South Wales Assistant Railways Commissioners disagree with the, ChiefCommissioner the matter is not carried further, but is referred to the Ministry or to Parliament for decision. On the proposed Board the chairman is to receive a higher’ salary than the other two members, and, therefore, I presume he will be deemed to be more efficient. I therefore desire to ascertain if the chairman will be able to veto the votes of the other two’ members. ,
– No provision is embodied in the Bill in regard to voting, and I do not think it is usual for it to be included in connexion with Boards of this character. It is not customary to lay down a hard and fast rule in the matter of voting power, and the question is generally left to the common sense of the members of such Boards, who usually compromise. The Economies Commission contemplated that the three members of the proposed Board would mutually divide up the work into sections which individual members were competent to handle. For instance, one may deal with contracts and another with salaries, promotions, &c.
– The New South Wales Act does that; but when the Commissioners meet, the votes of the two Assistant Commissioners are only equal to that of the Chief Commissioner, which, I think, is quite right.
– This Bill does not provide anything of the kind, and I do not think it is right to lay it down as a hard and fast rule.
– I desire to call the attention of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) particularly to sub-clause i of proposed new section 9, which relates to a member of the Board engaging in other work. In the War Service Homes Act, a subsection appears which could be inserted to advantage in this measure.
– What you are asking for ia in sub-clause 2 of the proposed new section.
– Yes, I believe that covers my point. What I particularly desire is that provision shall be made. to allow a member of the Board to be interested in an outside company to enable him to make some provision for his future in the event of failing to secure reelection. If the Minister for Defence gives me his assurance that the sub-clause to which he has referred provides ample protection I have no objection to offer’.
– The sub-clause fully co>vers the point.
.- I desire to know whether the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) will agree to insert a new sub-clause in this clause providing for preference to returned soldiers, all things being equal, as has been done in other Bills. I know that is the policy of the present Government, and that it is one which they have given effect to on every occasion. But there may be a time when the present Government will not be in power, and it will therefore be advantageous if in the matter of appointments to the Board preference to returned soldiers, all things being equal, is embodied in the Bill. When the appointment of the Repatriation Board was being considered, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) agreed to insert a subclause om the lines I have indicated, and I trust the Minister for Defence will not object in this instance.
– I do’ not think it is necessary to insert such a subclause as that proposed in this measure, as this Government will undoubtedly bear that principle in mind in making appointments. If the proposed Board proves a success this measure may be on the statute-book for twenty or thirty years, and I do not see the necessity of accepting an amendment on the lines indicated. In connexion with the Repatriation Board, there was a special reason for the inclusion of such a sub-clause, but I do not think it can be said that that reason exists in this case. I may point out that it would be impracticable to have such a severe limitation in the matter of selection, because, except in the case of officers, it would exclude every one over the age of fifty years.
– I am only suggesting that preference should be given to returned soldiers, al] things being equal.
– Would the Minister be in favour of one member of the Board being a returned soldier?
– There, again, we are confronted with a difficulty, as we might find it impossible to obtain a suitable man. The Government’ ‘would certainly like to see the three positions filled by ex-soldiers, and that is not an empty statement, because our sincerity has’ been proved by past appointments, lt may be that, after making inquiries, we could not find any returned soldiers suitable for the position, and I urge honorable senators not to press the matter, but to trust the Government in regard to the first appointments.
– I am inclined to support Senator Foll, if it is his intention to make it mandatory on the part of this or any future Government to appoint ex-soldiers to the Board, all things being equal. As the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) stated, it is quite possible that suitable returned soldiers may not be available, and, if such were the case, the Government would be quite free to make other appointments. ‘But, on the other hand, if there were . returned men, who had served their country, it should be obligatory on the part of this or any other Government to give them the first choice. Of course, no one can foresee how long the present Government will be in office, and I realize what a national calamity it would be if they were defeated. But, at the same time, we have no guarantee that they are likely to remain in power, and it is possible that a succeeding Government might not take much interest in the men who have fought for Australia. If Senator Foll is prepared to move an amendment to make it mandatory that returned soldiers should have preference, all things being equal, I shall support him. I would not be prepared to jeopardize appointments to the Board by saying that all its members should be ex-soldiers.
– If such an amendment were inserted it would be valueless.
– Does the honorable senator hold the view that there are no returned men who are qualified ? If that is the argument, then, to insert the proposed reference would make no difference ; men who had not seen active service would be appointed on the sole ground of efficiency.
– If the amendment were made in the form suggested, it would be valueless. The proposal is aimed’ more at some future Government than at the present one. Senator Earle says,and I agree with him, that such precautions in the interests of returned men are not necessary so far as this Government is concerned. It may be taken for granted, indeed, that if there is an ex-soldier who is equally competent with other candidates for a vacant position he will receive the appointment. If either this or some future Government were to appoint other than a returned man it would be that Government’s responsibility; and, no doubt, the reason advanced for such action would be that the former soldier applicant was not competent, or equally competent, with the successful candidate.
– But the Government would have to take the responsibility of saying so.
SenatorTHOMAS. - Undoubtedly That is my point. I strongly favour the appointment of returned men in every instance, other things being equal. However, I emphasize the view that the amendment suggested would prove useless.
– As I understand that there is an interesting function imminent, with which honorable senators are concerned, it would probably meet the convenience of the Senate if the President were now to suspend the sitting until after dinner.
– In compliance with the suggestion of the Minister, I will suspend the sitting until 8 p.m., at which hour I shall resume the chair.
Sitting suspended from3.46 to8 p.m.
.- I move-
That, inasmuch as the financial needs of the Commonwealth arising out of the war require a substantial increase in our surplus wealth to enable it to meet its obligations, and as such increase can only follow on a corresponding increase in the output of commodities, and this in turn requires a free field having no artificial restraints or burdens; and that in order to insure that each industry shall be given the opportunity to yield its maximum by standing on its own base, and neither leaning upon nor being leaned on by any other industry, the Senate is of opinion -
That, for the purpose of determining the true standing of conditions in the industrial field, and removing, as far as the power of Parliament can do, any maladjustment whereby one or more industries stand to be systematically sweated for the direct gain of other opulent industries, the Government should, as a commencement, instruct the Inter-State Commission to inquire into and report upon the following seven industries, viz., the pastoral, metalliferous mining, wheat-growing, coal-mining, shipping, textile manufacture, machinery manufacture (embracing only machinery used in agriculture and mining) in respect to -
That, as wheat-raising and metalliferous mining between them provide homes and livings of a kind for a vastly outstanding proportion of our population, the Commission should commence its investigations of them, in order that any discovered grievances found crippling or retarding their progress may be thoroughly ventilated and effective remedies applied without further delay.
The Standing Orders wisely provide an opportunity to honorable senators to direct attention to any public matter in the economic or industrial sphere in connexion with which grievances have arisen, with a view to the application of suitable remedies. It falls to my lot this evening to refer to a matter which is not by any means novel, and which honorable senators may perhaps consider I have worn threadbare in discussion in this Chamber.
There is a marked, growing, and widespread difference to-day between industries of the countryside and those carried on by urban populations. Until I looked into some up-to-date figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr.
Knibbs), I was not myself fully informed of the extent of the drift of population from the countryside into the cities, which has continued in unabated volume for some years past. In our childhood days, we were taught that the tides of the ocean were subject to the influence of the moon, and we have all heard that in some illdefined way the moon is associated with lunacy. The tide of population drifts in these days in a? direction that is positively indefensible, and it can only be accounted forby the operation of some influence that has its origin in lunacy. I directed attention only the other day to the way in which population is drifting from the countryside to the city, and compared that . with the tendency of some years ago.
There is an old saying that experience is the best schoolmaster, and one’s own experience is naturally most impressive and convincing. In my own case, if honorable senators will pardon a personal note, I am able to say that when I landed in this country the tendency was for any young fellow, whether a native of Australia or one who came here from elsewhere, to get away from the crowded centres of population into the country. If he were asked what he was going to the country for, his answer would be prompt - that he desired to make progress, and so wished to get away from the centres of population to where there would be less competition, where labour would be amply rewarded, and a man of resource might expect to do well. Unfortunately, to-day in every State in Australia, without exception, the tendency is in the opposite direction, and instead of the tide of population drifting away to the countryside, where there is room and to spare, it drifts from the countryside to the city; and even in the case of population arriving from overseas, the tendency is to remain in the cities.
It is for the purpose of directing attention to this condition of affairs, which cannot but have evil consequences to the Commonwealth, that I have tabledmy motion. Some will object to the motion on the ground of its length, but it is as hard to refrain from saying as much as one would be inclined to say upon such a subject as it is to exaggerate its importance. I can hardly imagine any other subject that approaches it in importance. I do not claim that the motion I submit is perfect in aim or in detail, but I do claim- that it aims in the right direction. I am about to ask the Government to cause inquiry to be made into the condition of several industries in this country, with a view to determining which are having the easiest and most opulent time, and which have the hardest tow to hoe. I seek this inquiry in order that .when the facts are submitted . without embellishment or glossing over, we may, as a Parliament, direct our legislative power to the supply of a remedy fox the existing state of affairs.
I do not say that other industries have not equal claims to investigation with those to which I have referred in my motion. I am far from saying any such thing. The fruitgrowing industry deserves well of this country, and it should not be ignored. The dairying industry is one which supplies livings and homes to a vast number of our people. In that industry I believe there is at present far too big an element of child labour. Under hard economic conditions parents of families get out from the city, and immediately the law gives them some relief, and they utilize the services of their children, sometimes even before they are entitled to that relief under the law, to help them to earn an adequate income. I aim not saying that the dairying industry is not deserving of inquiry in order that a remedy might be found for the grievances that beset it. I have singled out certain industries for inclusion in my motion for the express purpose that I think it will be found, upon impartial inquiry, that some of them enjoy a more profitable and easy time than ig warranted by their deserts, and at the expense, not only of the general community, but of people engaged in other industries employing a vastly larger proportion of our population. I should like to see fair play between all the industries in the field. 1 have no wish to see one given a special advantage over another, or to see any industry handicapped because of’ its inferior position in an industrial or economic sense.
Much that I have to say on this motion I have said on previous occasions, and I can only recapitulate. As I said a few nights ago, the industries of this country may be classed under two headings. There are what we might call home industries, dependent upon local consumption for the disposal of their products.
They prepare their products, which are consumed in the Australian market. There is. a ring fence around these industries represented by the 12,000 miles of our coast-line, and those engaged in them are able to say to the outside world, “Let all come,” because they have the advantage of the protection which is afforded them. There is another class of industries in this country for which it is difficult to find a suitable name. I may refer to them as the home and oversea industries. They cannot be described as foreign, because they are conducted here, and are a part of our industrial system. They are engaged in production, as our home industries are, but instead of being dependent upon the home market they go into the storm-tossed markets of the world ; they put their products before the world’s buyers, and- ask them to come along and do business. This has continued for a very long time, and, to their credit be it said, those industries hold their own in the markets of the world, though they are carried on in Australia under the white man’s conditions. I say that those industries deserve well _ of this country. I have referred to the dairying industry and the fruit industry; but, above all, I should refer to the wheat industry. This is an industry about which I know something, for the reason that my neck is hard in the collar in carrying it on, and I know something of the “ ins “ and “ outs “ and the “ ups “ and downs “ of it.
The city (populations of this country do not sufficiently recognise what the wheat industry is doing for Australia to-day. We have some 220,000 people engaged in agriculture in the Commonwealth, and the wheat industry alone employs or provides homes for 80 per cent, of that number. Those engaged in the wheat industry not only supply our home market, but cross our boundary line and place their surplus products on the markets , of the world. Wheat-raising in Australia is practically confined to the lighter and drier soils, and it is the one agricultural industry carried on in such districts by white men. Those engaged in this industry have held their own in competition with the surplus products of India, Egypt, the Balkan States, and also of Russia before the war, without State aid of any description. It is nothing short of surprising that they can. hold ‘their own at the other end of the world, in view of the higher cost of production in Australia. The same remarks apply to the production of gold. Gold has its talismanic value the world over. There was an increase of its value caused by shortage during the war. Previously, the value was fixed by international arrangement. Those engaged in getting gold may be compared with those engaged in the wheat industry, since’ they supply not only our home market, but carry their surplus outside. The same may be said in connexion with mining for silver, copper, lead, and zinc.
– The honorable senator must not forget tin.
– That is so; tin is very important.
I want to direct attention to the fact that for quite a long period those engaged in the home industries, whether employers or employees, or both combined, .when seeking any special advantage or the remedy of some grievance, imaginary or otherwise, have made appeals to the ‘Government of the day, or to that great hazy and ill-defined arbiter known- as public opinion. They make out their case - it does not need to be made out too well, because if they happen to occupy a strongly entrenched position in a unionistic sense, they stand the brightest chance in the world of getting all their demands granted. Upon the other hand, those who have embarked their capital in the industry have merely to add to the price of their product, in order to put themselves in as good, if not a better, position than they previously occupied. Thus, whatever may be gained by an improvement in the conditions of the employees in any industry, has inevitably to be borne by’ the general consumer throughout Australia,, as well as by those industries which are not in a position to obtain, any relief whatever. That is what has happened in the coalmining industry, and in the maritime carrying trade, not once but many times. It is well for us to recollect that the industries which are patiently bearing the burden all the time embrace the bulk of the producing consumers of this country -that is to say, of those men who are wedded to the soil, and who are engagedin producing capacities. These indivi duals have no such remedy as have the workers and capitalists in our home industries. Take, as an illustration, the case of the New South Wales colliery proprietors, or of the sugargrowers of North Queensland. I desire to see the sugar industry firmly established in the Commonwealth, but I shall never consent- to putting it in .a more favoured position than other industries which are exposed to the fierce blast of competition outside Australia, and which, nevertheless, have to hold their own both inside and outside of this country. Such a position has not the element of fairness in it. It is not right that certain industries should enjoy a more prosperous time than other industries winch do not occupy such a favoured position.
Gold production, for example, is the pioneer industry of this country. It directed attention to the waste places of Australia, and it is an industry which should never be forgotten, because it lures away from our large centres of population many of the more adventurous amongst our young men, and induces them to do something to advance themselves. Consequently, the gold industry deserves well of this country. Yet it is waning to-day, and the employees in it are not enjoying that reasonable set of industrial conditions to which they are entitled. Only the other day I spoke of the impossibility of granting them those conditions, because the gold-mine owner is not in the position that is occupied by the New South Wales colliery proprietors, who, by raising the price of coal, stand to gain, rather than lose, by any increase in the cost of production. Honorable senators will doubtless recollect that twenty years ago the price of coal was 8s. per ton at the pit’s’ mouth, whereas to-day it is 18s. per ton. In Melbourne coal for household use could be purchased twelve years ago for 29s. per ton; to-day its price is £3 per ton. I do not quarrel with these increases except from the stand-point “that there are other industries in our midst which cannot pass on any increased cost of production. Why should the colliery proprietor or the ship-owner be placed in an exceptionally favoured position?
– Because one section is suffering an injustice, it does not follow that every . section should be subjected to it. ‘…’..
– I am not so sure that an injustice would be meted out to those who are carrying on certain industries if they were asked to recollect that every increase in the price of their commodities means imposing an additional handicap upon other industries. The wheat-grower, for example, cannot go to the buyers overseas and say, “ It costs me so much extra to produce wheat now, and therefore my price for it is 10s. per bushel.” It is true that he is getting that price to-day, and I hold that he should get the world’s parity. But the time was when he did not occupy any such position. As a matter of fact, he received only 5s. per bushel for his wheat when the Canadian and American farmers were getting nearly double that amount. It is true that capitalists who are interested in metalliferous industries have also derived a certain degree of advantage owing to war conditions. For instance, the price of silver has increased very considerably, whilst that of copper has mounted from £61 to £124 per ton: But we are only now experiencing the effects of the war, which brought windfalls to these industries. From the Com monwealth Year-Boole I gather that the men employed in our mining industry receive an average wage of £3 18s. per week. As a matter of fact, they do nothing of the kind in Western Australia, and the gold-miners there are paid as’ well as are the miners . in any other part of the Commonwealth. The miners employed upon the Golden Mile are receiving only about the same wage as was paid to them twenty-five years ago, and I believe that a similar condition obtains at Charters Towers, and, perhaps, in a modified form in other metalliferous centres throughout the Commonwealth. Seeing that the gold-miners of Western Australia, working 400 miles inland, have been on a, stationary mark virtually for twenty-five years, is it right that the employees in certain coddled industries, which have a home market to which they can look with absolute assurance, should have their wages increased by j.00 per cent. 1
– The honorable senator wishes to bring down their wages ?
– The position has not the element of fair play in it. The prosperity that obtains in certain industries is an artificially created one. It is brought about by imposing handicaps upon other industries. Take the case of the Kalgoorlie miner, or of the miner in North Queensland. Presumably they are just as estimable citizens as are the other men to whom I have referred, and as much entitled to a fair deal. The Kalgoorlie miner may desire to take a trip round our coast ‘as far as Melbourne in order to recuperate his health after having Been engaged in that arduous occupation which sends so many young men to their doom. The ill-results which attend mining operations are not so noticeable amongst the employees in coal mines, but they can be seen in Western Australia just as well as they can in South Africa, where it was shown three years is the average life of the rock-drill mirier. When> the Kalgoorlie miner wishes to take a sea trip, to which by all the rules of the game he is entitled, he is compelled to pay nearly three times the fare which was exacted from him twenty years ago. Who secures the advantage of that increased fare? It is shared by the men for whom Senator Duncan has so much sympathy - the individuals who to-day are . getting 100 per cent, more in wages and profits than they ever received previously. Save for the windfalls which have come to our wheat producers during the war period, that section is the most sweated section of the community. The report which has been issued upon wheat production in South Australia and New South Wales shows in no uncertain manner that wheat production is only a slight remove from slavery. It is quite true that our wheat-growers have had a well merited revival during recent years, but it is one which is not likely to last.
– How does the honorable senator intend to get over the difficulty, seeing - that the Broken Hill miners, who receive the best part of £1 per day, refuse to accept that wage, and have been on strike for fifteen months?
– I am not dealing with individual cases, but am endeavouring to point out the position of the metalliferous mining industry, the value of whose products has been raised by about 60 per cent. In the case of gold, while there has been a slight increase in value, the price is now going back to the old level. Broken Hill constitutes in itself the one conundrum in the industrial field in Australia, and I am not responsible for it.
The net effect is that those industries, wheat-growing and metalliferous mining, are being hit because they have to uphold the advantageous conditions enjoyed by other industries, which are to be found mostly on the fringe of the continent, whilst at the same tame holding their own against all comers in the markets outside. The result is that people, finding the conditions there so arduous, are leaving the country.
It will startle honorable senators to learn that wheat production in Australia is visibly waning. If that is the case in one of our leading industries, it is time we asked ourselves what is the cause, and what the appropriate remedy. Should we not be up and doing? If we cannot supply a remedy, let us avoid those conditions which mean a further handicap and burden on country industries, and which make the country still less attractive. That is our duty as a Parliament. The latest figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician regarding the wheat- areas are indeed startling. Let me remind honorable senators again, as showing the importance of the wheat industry to Australia, that the number of adult people dependent upon it is 170,000, a figure far and away above that of any other individual industry. Wheat-growing provides a home and opportunity for men of small means. It takes them away from the wage-earning occupations, and gives them a promise, which is not fulfilled as it should be, of making a home and independence in the wholesome environment of the countryside. In the year 1910, the area under wheat was, in round figures, 7,300,000 acres. It increased slightly until, in the year 1915-16 - a war year - it reached its maximum of 12,000,000 acres. Then it began to decline until, in 1920, it was as low as 6,300,000 acres. Therefore, in five years, the area under wheat . cultivation diminished by half, and on 6,000,000 acres which formerly produced wheat the grass or the saplings are growing up.
– To-day there are 11,400,000 acres under wheat in Australia^ - the second best record.
– That must be for the year 1920-21. I am very glad to hear it. If the increase in the price of wheat is not responsible for it, I do not know what is.
– It is conclusive proof that the men who went away are men who do things. The acreage- has gone up since they returned.
– -Until the VicePresident of the Executive Council gave us those figures, I had an idea that the position had improved, but not to that extent; but when things are left to take their own way, as in the past, we know what happens. The figures I have given are sufficiently startling to cause any member of the Senate, or of the public, who wishes the industries of Australia well, to inquire closely in order to find out for himself what the cure is. It might be said that the people are simply changing their occupations, going out of wheat cultivation, and going in for sheep and cattle raising, or dairying.
– Four hundred thousand of them changed their occupation; that is the trouble.
– That is quite true. But while a decline has taken place in the area of wheat under cultivation, no such effect has been noticed in manufacturing pursuits.
– That is a sign of progress. It shows that we are doing more manufacturing here.
– There has been no decrease in the output of our manufactures, or in the value of the products, or in the number of men employed.
– Do you mean the numbers of hands employed ? Women have since the war taken up occupations that they did not take up before.
– I mean the number of persons employed. I find that in 1909 the number of sheep in Australia was 91,000,000, while in 1917 it had declined to 84,000,000-. This shows that people who gave up wheat-growing could not have turned their attention to raising sheep. Nor is the explanation to be found in the cattle-raising industry. In 1909 the number of cattle in the Commonwealth was 11,000,000; in 1917 it was the same. There has, therefore, been no marked increase in either of those industries as. the result of 6,000,000 acres going out of wheat cultivation. The figures regarding the number of employees are significant. In the war year 1914-15, the number employed in agriculture was 212,000, and in 1919, after five years of war, it had shrunk to 181,000, or a clear loss of 31,000. In dairying, there was a loss of 3,000, and in wool-growing 10,000, whereas ‘ the number of hands employed in manufacturing industries increased from 321,000 in 1915, to 328,000 in 1918.
– How many of those were engaged in the manufacture of war material ?
– I could not say; but it naturally follows that there was an increase in the number engaged in providing munitions of war. There was also a demand for foodstuffs, and the several State Governments were a.t their wits’ end to encourage people to go in for increased wheat cultivation. The New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government offered inducements again and again for that purpose, because the area under wheat was steadily declining, whereas the number of persons engaged in manufacture showed a steady increase, as did the value of the manufactures, and this, without any special inducement, save that of Tariff legislation.
The distribution cf the population of the Commonwealth is most unsatisfactory. The I car-Book of 1909 showed that the six cities of Australia had 36 per cent, of the population. In 1918 the same six cities had 42 per cent., showing that a constant increase has taken place in the urban population. These figures supply sufficient warrant for the application of a remedy. We must keep a close watch on the development of those industries which up to the present have made applications from time to time- for the improvement of their conditions, or for advantages of other kinds. We must refuse to extend to them any more advantages until those who have to compete in the markets of the world get a fairer deal and a better chance of success than they have had in the past.
I leave this proposition in the hands of the Government, in the belief that they will cause inquiries to be made into the conditions of wheat-growing and metalliferous mining. Other industries have been inquired into over, and over again. I do not know how many inquiries have been held in connexion with the coal industry. There have been several inquiries regarding shipping, fruit, and sugar, while the town industries have had investigations many times into their conditions for the purpose of securing an alteration or remodelling of the Tariff. So far as I am aware, this Parliament up to date has not bothered itself about the wheat and metalliferous mining industries, except when it thought that they could stand an extra impost by way of contribution towards other industries already well established.
I ask, therefore, as a beginning, that the Government direct, either the Inter-State Commission or some other competent authority, to inquire into these industries, to find out how they are faring, and what chances of success they offer to men of small means. It should inquire also into other industries to ascertain how labour is employed in them, and whether they are having too easy a time or a fair time, or want some advantage. It will be found that the workers engaged in wheat-growing or in the several forms of base-metal mining, and gold mining, are having a much worse time than those engaged in the other industries I have referred to. I do not want to see bad conditions ushered in, but I do want to see the scales held as fairly as possible between the two sides. Before those who rely on the home -market and some support for their encouragement ask for any more advantages, they should take into account the social, economic, and industrial difficulties of their fellow-workers in the sister industries of Australia. The people of Australia will be startled to learn what a poor return is ‘being received by those engaged in the wheat-growing industry. I venture to say that the average worker engaged in wheat-raising has not made for a long period as much as ls. per hour, if he has made that. Some calculators have even put his return down to as low as 4d. per hour. Contrast those results with the large percentages being paid on capital in other industries, and the 3s. and 4s. an hour being paid to workers in them. If those concerned had to sell their products in- the open markets against the competition of the world on the basis of a cost of 3s. or 4s. an hour, they could not hold their own for a single moment. That is so. If we had to produce wheat, gold, tin, and copper on the 2s.,- 3s., or 4s. per hour basis, such as was lately fixed, Australia would not be able to dispose of a single bushel of wheat, or a ton of- metal. I have directed attention to this ill-adjusted condition of affairs in the hope that my action may be the means of rendering some relief to those industries which have been so heavily handicapped in the past. It is because of the unsatisfactory conditions that exist that I ask the Government to cause an inquiry to be made; and if, as a result of the exposure of the bad conditions prevailing in these industries, we can do something* .to ease the position, the suggested inquiry would not have been in vain.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from this day, vide page 3454) :
.- I move–
That the following new sub-clause be inserted in proposed new section’ 5: - “1a. In making appointments under the provisions of this section preference shall be given, other things being equal, to returned soldiers or sailors.”
I do not think it necessary to dwell at length’ upon the advisableness of inserting this provision in . the Bill. As I have already stated, the present Government have shown that they, are in sympathy with the returned soldiers; but Governments come and go, and there may be a Government in power in the future - although we sincerely hope there will not be a change - .which may not- be kindly disposed towards returned soldiers. Under those circumstances, a provision such as this would bind the Government of the day, other things being equal, to appoint a returned soldier in the event of fi vacancy occurring.
– Senator Foll and other honorable senators who have spoken have expressed themselves as satisfied that the present Government, in making appointments to the Board, would give consideration to the claims of returned soldiers, and I consider that that trust is based on good grounds. When the Repatriation Board was under consideration, the obligation of selecting one soldier was placed upon the Government ; but, as a matter of fact, three were appointed. The same can be said of the “ prescribed authority “ appointed under the War Gratuity Act, where the obligation was upon the Government to appoint one returned soldier on both, the State stud Central Committees; birt the Go- vernment appointed three. Senator Foll also pointed out that a future Government may be unsympathetic towards the policy he mentions, and he therefore wishes it to be embodied in the Bill, so that it would be obligatory on the part of the Government of the day, other things being equal, to appoint a returned soldier to every vacant position. I submit that the proposed .new sub-clause does nothing of the kind. Who’ is to be the judge of the equality of the “ other things “ ? Obviously, the Government making the appointment. If the Government were unsympathetic, and desired to overlook returned soldiers, they would naturally declare that, in their judgment, the qualifications of returned soldiers were not equal to those of other applicants; and therefore they would not appoint an ex-soldier. It would not be a question of what was in the Act, but the attitude of the Government making the appointment. I ask the Senate not to accept the amendment, as it is merely a placard, and does not accomplish anything. Honorable senators know that the present Government will give the sugges-tion every consideration, and, other things being equal, will certainly give preference to these men who have served their country. I invite honorable senators’ attention to the fact that the proposed new sub-clause would not have” any binding effect on future Governments, and. I think it is only fair that those who say they trust the Government should do so in a practical way. If a division were called on this amendment, the action of the Government and of those who voted against it might possibly be construed as opposition to’ the policy of preference to returned soldiers, and would be the means of placing honorable senators opposing the amendment in an unfair position. If we had a Government in power which did not wish to give preference, even if the obligation were embodied in the Billand I submit that it is not - it would be an easy matter to repeal the section. The policy of preference to returned soldiers is a leading plank in the platform of. the Government, and it has not only been announced to the country, but has been given effect to on every occasion, when the opportunity arose. In view of these circumstances I ask honorable senators not to press the amendment to » division.
– Senator Foll was good enough to submit to me a copy of the proposed amendment. I agree with the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that the words “other things being equal” nullify the proposal of preference to returned soldiers, because it naturally follows that the man possessing the best qualifications would get the job, whether he were a. soldier or not.
– There is no preference in it.
– No, it does not mean preference. What I consider preference is embodied in a decision arrived at by a conference between the soldiers and the City Council of Hobart, where the Chief Justice, Sir Herbert Nicholls, presided. It was there decided, that preference to returned soldiers meant that if a soldier could be found who could reasonably be supposed to carry out a particular job, he was to get it, even if another who had not been to the Front possessed slightly better credentials. That is the preference I believe in. I desire to give every credit to the Government for what they have done in recognising the claims of returned soldiers and in giving preference wherever possible. I believe that men could be found, particularly amongst the senior officers, who are capable of occupying almost any position in Australia, and for that reason I would like a definite instruction to be given to the Government that soldiers should have preference in connexion with all such appointments. Another phase of the question wa3 raised at a conference of returned soldiers employed in the Public Service, which was held at the instigation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). These men claimed that out of the 20,000 employed in the Service about 12,000 were ex-soldiers. At this stage I do not desire to say anything concerning a number of men who could have gone to the Front, but who did not; but out of the 12,000 mentioned there are a good many who feel that they are not receiving the consideration to which they are entitled. If the various Departments are to be required to continue to carry out the wishes and intentions of the Government in the matter of preference to returned soldiers, surely the Government will accept the amendment. Among returned men occu pying responsible positions in the State or ‘Commonwealth Services there may be found quite a number who possess the necessary qualifications for appointment. Indeed, if honorable senators will recall some of ‘the public positions to which returned soldiers have recently been appointed, they will be impressed by the fact that there are men back in Australia who are qualified for any post. I press, however, that the words “ other things being equal” should be omitted.
– I am quite prepared to accept the declaration of the Government ‘that, in making all appointments, preference shall continue to be given to returned soldiers. The amendment does not carry with it an absolute instruction to the Government, either of this day or of some future time, to give preference to returned soldiers. Recent experience has proved, in the matter of Court awards and the like, that the phrase “ other things being equal” has not had the results anticipated. However, despite the objections which have been raised against the amendment, I hope it will be accepted. When our soldiers returned home in large numbers, employers generally observed the principle of preference. Unfortunately, there have been exceptions to the rule in recent days.. Already, in many directions, there maybe perceived not so much an apathy towards returned men as a direct hostility. This measure will, in another place, be subject to criticism by certain gentlemen representative of outside* organizations which are not merely unconcerned regarding the welfare of returned soldiers, but are determined, as far as possible, to break down the principle of preference. If this Committee accepts the amendment, it will have the effect of “putting the acid “ on certain honorable members of another place; it will cause them to declare themselves, one way or another, in the matter of preference for returned men. It is not for those honorable senators who themselves are ex-soldiers to say that this proposal shall not be incorporated in the Bill. I trust the Committee will accept it. By so doing the Senate, at any rate, will make known that it still stands for the principle, whatever certain private employers and outside organizations may be doing and thinking to-day. I do not distrust the Government; they are in earnest in saying that they desire to act on all occasions in the best interests of returned men. For the other considerations which I have mentioned, however, I repeat that I shall ^support the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
.- Most honorable senators will agree that Parliament should ‘be kept in touch with the work of the Board. , Its activities should be made public property at the end of each year, and the. Government and Parliament should have an opportunity qf considering and discussing its deliberations. I call attention, however, to the following sub-clauses of proposed new section 11 relating to the duties of the Board: -
Here it is optional for the Board to make known to the Minister any recommendation, report, or suggestion which has been disapproved by the permanent head. It should be compulsory for the Board to report such circumstances. It is not reasonable that a Board should be appointed at considerable expense, with the avowed object of insuring greater efficiency and economy^, in the Service, and that, upon the head of a Department turning down its recommendation, it should remain optional for the Board to take no further action. Surely the Minister concerned should be made aware of the decision of a departmental head in refusing to accept a recommendation of the Board in the direction of efficiency or economy. I move -
That the words “ may, if it thinks fit,” in sub-clause 4 of proposed new section 11, be left out with a view to insert “ shall “ in lieu thereof.
– - I do not see that any good purpose can be served by the amendment. Surely the Board will be sufficiently alive to its own interests to make known officially that the head of a Department has turned down its proposals. If the Board has made a recommendation is it likely that it will take no further action after having been snubbed by a departmental chief ? In the natural course of events it would at once make known the position to the Minister.
– The Bill, at any rate, takes that view.
– If the Board failed to make known such a situation it would be at once admitting that its recommendation was not worth following up.
– And that it did not consider itself fit for its job.
– Just so. There is another aspect, namely, that the Board - competent as it may be - will not contain the whole of the wisdom of the world. Possibly, after having made a recommendation, it may be pointed out by the head of the Department involved that there are certain vital considerations which the Board has overlooked; and, that being so, the Board may naturally see fit to withdraw its suggestion. The outcome of the amendment would be, however, that, even so, the Board would be bound to persevere with its recommendations and report the facts to the Minister. If the Minister turns down the recommendation, the Board must carry it to Parliament. We do not want recommendations coming before the Minister or Parliament which the members of the Board have themselves decided to abandon. Those are the only recommendations which, under the clause, would not be persevered with. Does Senator Payne not see that the Board are masters of the situation, and. if they allow a permanent head to turn down their recommendation, and go no further with it, that is the surest indication that it is not worth going on with. I ask the honorable senator not to persist in his amendment, which might have the effect of loading up the Minister or Parliament with the consideration of recommendations which the members of the Board themselves are prepared to abandon.
.- I want to suggest to the Minister the desirableness of amending proposed new section 11 by inserting a new paragraph.
– If the honorable senator desires to move an amendment to sub-clause 1 of proposed new section. 11, the amendment proposed by Senator Payne must first be temporarily withdrawn.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn:
– I move-
That, after sub-paragraph ix of sub-clause I of proposed new section 11, the following new paragraph be inserted: -
A great deal was said by Senator Thomas as to the difficulty experienced under the present Act in securing the dismissal of inefficient officers. Other members of the Committee voiced the belief that the Board should have power to dismiss an inefficient officer. Senator Wilson went so far as to say that he would vote against the whole Bill unless that power were given. The amendment I propose would make it clear that the Board would have power to dismiss for inefficiency.
– I congratulate Senator Elliott upon his short cut, but I am afraid that it is impossible to do what he desires as easily as his amendment suggests. This Bill proposes only the amendment of the Public Service Act by the substitution of a Board of Management for the Public Service Commission. To accomplish what Senator Elliott desires, we should have to amend all . the sections of the Public Service Act that deal with this subject, otherwise we should have two Statutes providing two different methods for the dismissal of officers. The present method is provided by the existing Public Service Act, and the adoption of the honorable senator’s amendment would not alter that. I have said that the Government are proposing a general amendment of the Public Service Act, in which, amongst other things, they will deal with the question of the power to dismiss officers.
– Will they give that power to the Board.
– I am a member of a sub-Committee that is reporting on the matter to the Cabinet, and until the Cabinet have dealt with our report I cannot say whether our suggestions will be adopted or not. I do say, however, that the amending Bill will deal with the method of dismissing public servants. I suggest to the Committee that we must have proper machinery for that purpose. If a majority of honorable senators are of opinion that the power of dismissal should be vested in the Board of Management, they can give effect to that opinion when the Bill amending the Public Service Act, to which I have referred, comes before them this session. The effect of agreeing to Senator Elliott’s amendment would be that we should have two Acts dealing in a different way with the same question, and the honorable senator, as a lawyer, will know that that is not desirable. Under the existing Act an inefficient officer is reported by the permanent head of his Department to the Public Service Commissioner. The Commissioner then suspends the officer. There is provision made then for the consideration of the case by a Board representing the Public Service Commissioner and the particular Division of the Service to which the officer belongs. This Board, after investigation, makes . a report, and if it reports that the officer should be dismissed, the Public Service Commissioner has then the power to dismiss him. Honorable senators will see that that method of dealing with dismissals is expressed in quite a number of sections in the Public Service Act, and it is impossible by the few words of Senator Elliott’s amendment to amend all those machinery provisions of the existing law.. When, the main Bill amending the Public Service Act is before honorable senators they will be afforded an opportunity to express their views, and if a majority believe that the power of dismissal should be vested in the Board of Management they can give effect to their views. I ask Senator Elliott to withdraw his amendment, “when I assure him that before the session is much older he will havean opportunity of testing the opinion of honorable senators on this question if he finds that the proposals of the Government to deal with the matter are not satisfactory.
.- The arguments of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) confirm the objection raised by Senator Senior on the earlier stages of this Bill that we are working more or less in the dark in considering thesemeasures before we know what is to be contained in the main Public Service Bill. As soon as we try to amend this Bill we find ourselves up against possible provisions of the main amending measure. Under paragraph v of sub-clause 1 of proposed new section11 it is set out that one of the duties of the Board shall be -
The limitation of the staffs of the various Departments to actual requirements, and the utilization of those staffs to the best advantage.
This would give power to the Board to limit the staffs of the various Departments if they found that there were too many men on one job.
– That is not a question of efficiency. In that case the Board would have power to declare the number of surplus officers, and they could be dismissed under the present Act.
– I am glad to have that explanation.
– In view of the explanation given by the Minister for Defence, Iask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I again move -
That the words “ may, if it thinks fit,” in subclause 4 of proposed new section 11 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall.”
In reply to’ what has been said by the Minister for Defence. (Senator Pearce) I should like to direct attention to the fact that there is more in these sub-clauses of proposed new section 11 than the Minister has allowed. If the Board make a recommendation for the reduction of the number of hands in a Department it goes to the permanent head. If he does not approve of the recommendation it is left optional with the Board to report that to the Minister. I contend that it should be reported to the Minister.
– Suppose the permanent head demonstrates to the members of the Board that it would not be advisable to take the course they recommend, why should the recommendation then go to the Minister?
– My point is that Parliament should know as much as possible about the work done by the Board in the course of the year.
– Parliament can get that from their annual report.
– They might keep such a matter as the turning down of their recommendation out of their report.. It is not compulsory upon the
Board to include in their report any reference to recommendations made by them during the year which were turned down by the heads of Departments. The Minister would no doubt do all that he could to support the Board in their efforts to bring about economy and efficiency, but Senator Pearce may not always be a Minister.
– That would not matter.
– It does matter. If the head of a Department turns down a recommendation of the Board, and that is reported to the Minister, and he in turn does not approve of the recommendation, there is no compulsion on the Board to furnish Parliament with any information concerning that incident.
– What could Parliament do unless it were informed as to the whole of the circumstances?
– Parliament could be informed of the whole of the circumstances by the Board. What is the use of this Board if its recommendations can be vetoed by the head of a Department or by the Minister?
– That could only be with the consent of the Board.
– I think it should be compulsory upon the Board to include in its annual report every recommendation which it makes throughout the year. We want to know what the Board’s opinion of the Public Service is. We are being asked under this Bill to involve the Commonwealth in considerable expense in order to secure greater efficiency and economy in the Public Service.
– What Parliament will want to know is whether there has been any interference with or blocking of the Board by a permanent head or by a Minister.
– The Minister, a permanent head, or both combined, may block a recommendation of the Board.
– Parliament in that case will be informed.
– It is not compulsory on the Board to supply Parliament with the information.
SenatorPearce. - Does the honorable senator think that the Board will be content to sitback?
– It is only reasonable to ask that Parliament shall be furnished with the recommendation of the Board for the more efficient working of the Service.
– Every year the AuditorGeneral brings under the notice of Parliament things which he thinks a Minister ought not to have done.
– My sole desire is to make the Bill as perfect as possible, and my suggestion has been made in the best possible spirit.
Senator FOLL (Queensland) p.31]. - At the outset of Senator Payne’s remarks I was disposed to support him, but upon looking deeper into the matter I find that I cannot do so. If the Board carries out the functions which are prescribed for it’ in proposed new section 11, it cannot possibly sit back and allow its will to be flouted by the permanent head of any Department. Moreover, if the permanent head of a Department refuses to give effect to any recommendation of the Board, it is hardly likely that this Parliament will be able to get to the bottom of the case without having before it- all the evidence taken in connexion with it. I repeat that if the Board is going to efficiently discharge the functions which are prescribed it cannot permit such a state of things to come about as has been outlined by Senator Payne.
– I think that there is a great deal in the suggestion made by Senator Payne. But I would suggest that the clause should be amended by inserting after the word “ therefor “ in sub-clause 3 of the proposed new section 11, the words, “ and in that case he shall also send to the Minister administering the Department in question a report on the recommendation, report or suggestion, and has reasons for not approving or not adopting the same.” Then I would suggest that the following .words be substituted for sub-clause 4 : - “ The Minister shall, unless he shall order the approval or adoption of such recommendation, report, or suggestion within fourteen days after its receipt, if the Parliament is then sitting, or if not, then within fourteen days after the next meeting of Parliament, cause the recommendation, report, or suggestion to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, together with the reasons for its non-approval or adoption.’’ ’ I further suggest that a new sub-clause 5 be inserted, as follows: - “If, in the case of a recommendation, report, or suggestion, accompanied by such reasons as above referred to, either House of Parliament, within thirty days after the recommendation, report, or suggestion has been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving of such, recommendation, report, or suggestion, such recommendation, report, or suggestion shall not come into force, but otherwise it shall immediately thereafter be carried into effect.” These recommendations made by an expert Board should be placed in exactly the same position as an award by the Arbitrator who is to be appointed under the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill. If the permanent head of a Department or his Minister wishes to go behind a recommendation of the Board, the Minister should get Parliament to disapprove of it.
– Should we hear evidence?
– If my suggestion were adopted the position will be exactly the same as that which will obtain under an award by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– Oh, no! The report of the Board of Management would deal with all sorts of petty details.
– It might deal with the appointment of a messenger.
– “We could not possibly give effect to the honorable senator’s suggestion. Take the regulations which are laid upon the table of the Senate now. There is scarcely an honorable senator who reads them.
– If the Minister thinks that any matter is of such importance
– How can Parliament say what ought to be done if it has not the facts before it?
– It will be the duty of the Minister to bring the facts before Parliament. We shall not know the evidence upon which the. Public Service Arbitrator makes an award.
– An award by the Public Service Arbitrator will cover a body of men, whereas’ the report of the Board of Management may cover, as the Minister says, the appointment of a messenger. : _ulJ_c..’j
– I do not follow the honorable senator’s reasoning. Here is a recommendation which is madeby a Board of experts; and if the Minister chooses to override it, he shouldbe prepared tobring the facts under the notice of Parliament, and to ask it to disapprove of that recommendation.
– In my innocence, I had looked to the constitution of the proposed Board of Management as likely to afford some relief to overworked Ministers by safeguarding them against action which was based solely upon the advice of the permanent head of a Department. But under the amendment which has been suggested by Senator Elliott, the lot of a Minister would be rendered very much harder. He would practically be flogged by a whip of scorpions. The honorable senator does not appear to thoroughly recognise the functions of the Board. Perhaps I can assist him to do so by pointing to an analogous case. At present, we have an Auditor-General whose duty it is to closely watch the expenditure of Parliament. During each year there are a thousand-and-one occasions upon which that officer sends to some public Department a query as to why it has expended certain moneys. He asks for the authorization for that expenditure. The matter is investigated, and eventually he may be satisfied that the Department possessed the requisite authority. But occasionally it happens that he is not satisfied with the explanation either of the permanent head of the Department concerned or of the Minister ; and when such a contingency arises, he directs the attention of Parliament to the matter. But in that case we do not provide for the cumbrous procedure which has been outlined by Senator Elliott. At the same time, no Minister likes to have his administration criticised by the AuditorGeneral as being unsatisfactory from a financial stand-point. Consequently, there is a disposition on the part of Ministers to meet any reasonable demand madeby the Auditor-General, and to live up to his requirements. The Board of Management which is to be constituted under this Bill will, in effect, be the Auditor-General, in relation to the work and staffing of the Departments. If we can get the Board, the permanent heads of Departments, and Ministers into agreement, Parliament will not want to be bothered with matters of detail. But even in the event of some question being pursued. by the Board right up to Parliament, where is the necessity for providing the cumbrous procedure that has been outlined by Senator Elliott? Moreover, who will move the resolution disapproving of the recommendation of the Board? Obviously, the Minister will not do it, because he would be moving a vote of censure upon’ himself. Senator Elliott says that the recommendation of the Board should lie upon the table of the Senate for fourteen days, and that the Minister should move a motion disagreeing with it. But he would already have shown his disapproval of it by disagreeing with it. To my mind, the criticism which has come from some officers upon this matter is effective, namely, that Parliament has neither the time nor the machinery to enable it to go into petty matters of detail, such as a dispute, perhaps, over the appointment of a messenger.I suggest to Senator Elliott that the power of the Board to report to. Parliament, and of Parliament to censure a Minister, is in itself quite adequate. I would urge him, therefore, not to submit the amendment which he has suggested, and which I regard as an altogether inappropriate one.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6, schedule, and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Senate adjourned at 9.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200812_senate_8_92/>.