8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (SenatoT the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 132, 133, 134, 135. Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired at Liverpool, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Papua. - Ordinance No. 3 of 1920 - Aliens, 1919.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Nationality and Aliens.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [3.5]. - I move -
That standing order 192 be suspended so as to enable the second reading of the Bill to be taken forthwith.
It is not my intention to carry the proceedings on the Bill further than to make my speech in moving the second reading. It will facilitate the business of the Senate if honorable senators will agree to the suspension of standing order 192 for that purpose?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 6.
When the Bill was under consideration last, in Committee, I suggested an amendment of the amendment submitted by Senator Earle in clause 5. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) took exception to the amendment I suggested, and Senator Earle did not see his way to adopt my suggestion. I missed my opportunity to submit the amendment I desired before the proceedings upon the Bill in Committee were concluded. I ask for the recommittal of the Bill in order to move an amendment to give power to the Board of Management should it differ from the Minister on a matter which it deems of vital importance to bring that matter before Parliament in a more direct way than the Bill provides for.
– The honorable senator is not at liberty to argue the matter now. The question before ihe Senate is the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose of reconsidering clause 5, and if that is agreed to the honorable senator will then be able to give his reasons for the amendment he desires to submit.
– I desire that the Bill should be recommitted to enable me to submit the amendment to which I have referred, and which I believe would be~au improvement upon the Bill. I ask honorable ‘Senators to support my request.
– In view of the state of our business-paper it would be churlish on my part to object to the recommittal of the Bill, but I wish it to be understood that, in agreeing to ‘the recommittal, the Government are by no . means committing themselves to the acceptance of the amendment which Senator Elliott desires to submit.
Question - That the ‘ Bill be recommitted - resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 5 (Proposed new section 11) - (3.) If the Permanent Head does not approve of or adopt thu 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 move -
That after the word “‘therefor,” in subclause 3 of proposed new section 11, the following words be inserted: “and if the Board does not agree with the reasons given, it may, if it thinks fit, so inform the permanent head and request that the matter be referred to the Minister.”
If this amendment be agreed to, I intend also to move that sub-clause 4 be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following new sub-clause - (4.) The Minister shall thereupon (unless he shall forthwith order the approval or adoption of such recommendation, report, or suggestion, or unless the Board shall withdraw the same), 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, together with such reasons for its non-approval or non-adoption, to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
I propose then to move the insertion of two new sub-clauses as follow - (5.) If in the case of a recommendation, report, or suggestion, accompanied by such reasons as are 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. ( 6. ) The Board may, if it thinks fit, although it has withdrawn its recommendation, report, or suggestion as above-mentioned, report the matter to both Houses of Parliament either by means of a special report or by inclusion in its annual report.
These amendments are intended to deal with a difficulty that I foresee will arise in. connexion with the administration of this measure. In the event of a dispute between the permanent head or the Minister in connexion with a recommendation, report, or suggestion, the only remedy the Board has is to embody it in either a special or annual report. The Board has no means of appearing before Parliament to argue the points in dispute. I have, therefore, framed these amendments with the idea of reversing the procedure, and placing the onus on the Minister. If he supports the permanent head after the latter has disregarded the recommendation, and if the Board persists in the recommendation” and desires to compel the Minister to bring it before Parliament, the Board will, by the means I propose, have the power to do so. The Minister will then be able to persuade Parliament, if he has any adequate reasons, to overrule- the recommendation of the Board. I feel that it is most important that in the case of a suggestion or recommendation being made by the Board which it considers vital, it ought to have some means . of bringing it immediately before the attention of Parliament. Under the old system such a recommendation would have to be embodied in a special or annual report, and would be laid on the table of Parliament, perhaps, indefinitely. In such circumstances it would be necessary for a member of the Board to approach a member of Parliament and request him to bring it under the notice of the House. If this procedure is still to be followed, it may mean that recommendations may be disregarded for years. “When I previously suggested anamendment of this character, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) stated that the recommendation of the Board might refer to the appointment of a messenger boy, and that such a trivial matter as that might be brought before Parliament if my suggestion were adopted. I have, therefore, modified the amendments I desire to submit to meet the position, so that it will be competent for the Board at any time to withdraw its suggestions, so that trivial matters may not be forced upon the notice of Parliament, but still reserving their rights to bring before Parliament suggestions or recommendations that are important. I feel that the Bill requires amendment in this direction to strengthen the hands of the Board.
– I cannot for the life of me understand why Senator Elliott is not satisfied with the machinery provided in the Bill, because it seems to amply safeguard the powers of the Board. It does not make the Board subordinate, either to the permanent head or to the Minister, and gives it direct access to Parliament. There is an effective way for the Board to bring differences existing between it and the permanent head or the Minister before Parliament. If Parliament is going to ignore the reports of the Board, this amendment will not improve the position in the slightest. Senator Elliott seems to think that if this machinery is set up it will strengthen the position of the Board ; but, in my opinion, it will strengthen the hands of the Minister. The machinery of the Bill gives the power of initiation in each case to the Board and not to the Minister; but the consequential amendments, which I understand the honorable senator intends moving later, gives the power of initiation to the Minister and not to the Board. If the Minister does not accept the recommendations of the Board it can report to Parliament, and it is not necessary for the Minister to take action. That is a stronger position to be in than to depend upon the action of the Minister. Under this Bill there is no opportunity for either the permanent head of a Department or the Minister to side-track or dodge any recommendations of the Board, as they either have to give effect to them or refuse to do so, and take the risk of the Board reporting to Parliament. The Minister may be called upon if Parliament thinks fit to justify his action in turning down the recommendations of the Board, and that is a better procedure than that proposed by Senator Elliott. The honorable senator has stated that he has modified his amendments to meet the position which may arise in connexion with trivial matters on which the permanent head and the Minister may not agree. He” says he has now excluded these, but I do not think he has, because the machinery which he desires to embody in the Bill will operate whatever the position may be. The AuditorGeneral’s reports operate practically in the same manner as under this Bill, with the exception that he submits only an annual report, whereas the proposed Board can report at any time, and, in addition, can submit an annual report. If some trivial matter arises, the Board may advance a point of view with which the Permanent Head does not agree, and with which, also, the Minister may not agree. Senator Elliott says the Minister must then bring the subject before Parliament, and within fourteen days thereafter, cause the introduction of a motion in both Houses to the effect that the recommendation of the Board shall not have effect. If that does not imply the employment of a steam hammer to crack a nut, I do not know what its purpose is. No one can say, after a reasonable study of the point at issue, that far more power is not proposed to be given to the Board by Senator Elliott than ever the Public Service Commissioner, or any
Board of Commissioners in any State, has possessed. This Board, while it will have general power of management, will not be, in a sense, an administrative Board. It may be that on some minor matters of administration the Board may pursue its recommendations against the opinions of the permanent head and the Minister, whereupon the machinery of Parliament would have to be set in motion in respect of an utterly unimportant matter. When one thinks of all the minutise of the Public Service, and realizes that hundreds of trivial points may come under review of the Board, and, subsequently - possibly - of Parliament itself, one must see that Senator Elliott’s proposal is not desirable. The time of Parliament may be practically wasted upon trivialities.
– Limit its consideration to the Senate, and give this Chamber something to do. We will find time.
– There is provision that “ if one House disapproves.”
– The honorable senator’s interjection impresses me with still another weakness in his amendment. Suppose that one House approves and another disapproves, what would happen then ? An honorable senator rightly suggests that a fresh Arbitrator would have to be called in.
– The same situation might arise in respect of the Arbitration Act, from which I copied my amendment almost word for word.
– I maintain that the machinery provided in the Bill, as it stands, is ample for all purposes. Wo are proposing to give the Board infinitely more power than the Auditor-Genera! possesses, and I feel sure that the provisions of the measure, as introduced, will be satisfactory.
– I support the views expressed by the Minister, although regarding tha amendment from a different stand-point. If I rightly understand the objectof Senator Elliott, he desires to see that any proposal which may be made by the Board shall be adopted by the Department concerned.
– Unless, of course, there is very serious reason to the contrary.
– One idea held in relation to the proposed Board is that it will be merely a Board of Advice.’ I hope to have an opportunity, at the third- reading stage, to point out that the Board will not be a Board of Management at all, but only a Board of Advice. What Senator Elliott desires to make of it is a Board of Management having tha power to come into a Department, and to say what ought or ought not to be done: The Bill will prove to be absolutely useless, if the Government have introduced it in the hope of bringingabout efficiency. With the amendment included, however, it will not only be useless, but mischievous. It will be within therights and powers of the Board to make of the permanent head of a Department practically a clerk. The Board will be able to dictate how a Department shall be run and that kind of thing will be bound to lead to trouble and create chaos. It is rather a strange fact that when the Public Service Act was originally before the Federal Legislature it contained a provision to give to the Commissioner practically those same powers which Senator Elliott now desires to confer upon the Board. I recall that, in another place, Sir William McMillan opposed the principle. He was a man of considerable business capacity, and had been in the New South Wales Legislature in the days when the late Sir George Reid had appointed a Board with practically similar powers. Sir William McMillan, as an influential member of the House of Representatives, was able to point out the ill-results of the powers conferred upon the Board in New South Wales. Hansard records that, at the request of Sir William McMillan, the Minister in charge of the original Public Service Bill, in the 1901 session, namely, Sir William Lyne, agreed to withdraw the clause which would have given these same undesirable powers to the Commissioner. I am against a Board of Management, outside a Department, having the right to come in and dictate to a Department. Neither in Mr. McLachlan’s report nor in the report of the Economies Commission is there any such suggestion as the creation of a Board of Management along the lines now proposed by the Government, and there is certainly no hint of a Board being appointed with powers such as Senator Elliott desires. It is a good thing to have a Board inside of a Department which is responsible to that Department and to Parliament. The Board . to be created by the Bill will be nothing more than a Board of Advice.
– Then, what will be the good of it?
– It will be of no use whatever. I do not know whether the adoption of the amendment would achieve the object which Senator Elliott has in view, but, if so, it would certainly lead to absolute chaos in every Department.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the creation of the proposed Board of Management must result in chaos?
– No. If a Board of Management were appointed to control the Postal Department, for example, that would be an entirely different matter. But so long as we have the permanent Head of a Department, if we appoint a Board of Management which will continually criticise him, there will be constant conflict, unless the permanent head is content to say - “ I am merely an overworked clerk here, and therefore intend to allow the Board to run the Department exactly as it pleases.”
– The honorable senator wishes a Board of Management to be appointed in connexion with every Department ?
– I do not. I have never supported the provisions of this Bill, but upon the present occasion I am prepared to vote with the Government, with a view to defeating the amendment.
– I have not devoted to this Bill that attention which I should have given to it, simply because I failed to see that it was likely to effect any improvement in the conditions which obtain in regard to our Public Service. Senator Thomas has convinced me that my impression is an absolutely correct one. He has said that, in its present form, the Bill represents only so much waste paper. Then it is obviously our duty to endeavour to improve it. I am inclined to think that the amendment will effect an improvement in the measure, because Senator Thomas has made it plain to us that the Bill cannot be made worse than it is.
Question. - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill reported without further amendment.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) again proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– Although I have been in parliamentary life for about a quarter of a century, this is the first occasion upon which I have ever addressed myself to a motion for the third reading of any Bill. On the present occasion, however, I must crave the indulgence of the Senate for a few minutes whilst I urge a few reasons why the passing of this measure should be postponed. Upon the motion for its second reading, I stressed the wisdom of delaying its passage until the principal Bill, dealing with our Public Service, had been introduced. Senator Keating and others expressed a somewhat similar view, and therefore I was hopeful that the Minister would have acceded to our request. Had he done so, we should then have had an opportunity of seeing what the principal Bill contains before finally disposing of this measure. The Minister was not prepared to accede to that request, and we are now, so far as the
Senate is concerned, on the last stage of this Bill. I voiced some objections, on the second reading, to proceeding with the measure, and the speeches I have listened to from honorable senators, and the replies made by the Minister to those speeches, have only confirmed the objections I raised.
The Bill provides for what is termed a Board of Management, but that, in my opinion, is an absolute misnomer. It should be described as a Bill to make provision for Public Service Commissioners and a Board of Advice. In no sense of the word can the Board to be appointed ; be called a Board of Management. It will not possess a single power in connexion with staff matters that is not possessed by the Public Service Commissioner under the existing law. In moving the second reading of the Bill the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) made what seemed to me to be a staggering statement, and fell into a most inexcusable error. I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable senator, and quote the following from the Hansard report of his speech: -
When first appointed the Public Service Commissioner had a great deal more power and more duties than he has to-day. He had authority to fix salaries in various grades, the power of classification, the power to determine conditions, rates of increments, and so on, but under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act he has practically none of those responsibilities. They have passed over to a Public Service Arbitration Judge. Under this Bill the proposed Board will be charged with the duty of fixing rates of salaries, increments, &c., but there will be a right of appeal from the Board to the Public Service Arbitrator.
In this statement the Minister for Defence seems to me to have made a very inexcusable error. If he will read the Bill and consider at the same time the powers of the Public Service Commissioner under the existing law he will find that in connexion with the matters referred to in the quotation I have made from his speech, the Commissioner under the present Act has exactly the same powers as are proposed to be given to the Board of Management under the Bill now before the Senate. In connexion with the fixing of salaries, classification, promotions, transfers, and so on, the employees have now the right of appeal from the Public Service Commissioner to the Arbitration Court. Under this Bill they will not have the right to appeal to a Judge of the Arbitration Court, but they will have the right to appeal to the; Public Service Arbitrator, provided for” in a Bill which we have recently considered. So that it will be seen that the powers of the Public Service Commissioner under the existing Act, and the powers of the Board of Management under this Bill are identical.
I do not suppose that the Minister for Defence has had the time to read Mr. McLachlan’s report on the Public Service, as it does not affect his Department.
SenatorRussell. - I can give the honorable senator the assurance that the Minister for Defence has read every line and every word of the report referred to.
– No one would be likely to catch the Minister for Defence tripping with respect to any matter connected with his own Department;, but even Jupiter sometimes nods, and it is possible that the Minister for Defence might overlook a report not dealing specially with his own Department. If he has read Mr. McLachlan’s report he must have noticed that so far from the Public Service Commissioner not having power to fix salaries, grant increments, and so on, Mr. McLachlan suggests that those powers should be, taken away from him, because they involve work which would be better intrusted to the permanent heads of the Departments.
The Minister will forgive me for making another reference to his secondreading speech where, in my view, he has again been led into making an inaccurate statement for which he is personally in no way to blame. He quoted the following from the report of the Economies Commission -
The Acting Public Service Commissioner admitted thathe did not consider it a part of his duty to keep a check upon the economical or efficient working of Departments.
I was surprised when I heard that statement, and it is only fair to Mr. Edwards, who is the Acting Public Service Commissioner, to consider what he has to say on thismatter. As honorable senators are aware, a number of officers who were criticised by the report of the Economies Commission have replied to those criticisms. The Assistant Acting Public Service Commissioner states in his reply -
TheRoyal Commission have misunderstood my evidence before them when they state that the Acting Public Service Commissioner did not exercise any check upon the economical working of Departments, and did not recognise the matter of economical control to be a responsibility of his.
I may be allowed to say incidentally that the members of the Economies Commission seem to me to have adopted a strange method in preparing their report. They apparently adapted the method of having an interview with certain people, from which they drew their conclusions, but no witnesses appear to have been examined by them upon oath and no minutes of the evidence given to them have been presented to enable us to judge whether the conclusions they drew from that evidence were correct.- Mr. Edwards goes on to say -
What I intended to convey in my interview was that where as a matter of policy a Department adopted a certain line of action, and required additional staff to carry it into effect, it did not come within my province to criticise the matter as one of policy.
I take it that if we appoint a Board of Management we shall not be, prepared to allow the members of that Board to criticise the Government or Parliament in connexion with a matter of policy. Mr. Edwards further says -
It rests with me to recommend the number and classification of the staff to be provided for that purpose, but even in that matter the opinion of the permanent head must be given due weight, as under the Public Service Act he is responsible for the general working of the Department and for its business.
When the Minister for Defence made his quotation from the report of the Economies Commission I was not in a position to refute it, but the statement appeared somewhat startling to me, because I have always considered that the Public Service Commissioner has the right where a Department asks for, say, fifty employees, before granting them to satisfy himself that fifty are required for the economical performance of the work required to be done, and if he is satisfied that only forty or thirty-five are necessary he may grant only that number. I know that in times past heads of Departments have complained that the Public Service Commissioner has not granted them the full number of staff they require, and they have pointed out that they are responsible for carrying out the work which must be done. I do not blame the Minister for Defence for quoting from the reportof the Economies Commission, but I do blame the Commission for inserting such a statement in their report, because two of the Commissioners, Mr. Templeton and Mr. Haldane, were members of the Public Service, and knew exactly what were the powers and functions of the Public Service Commissioner.
I am satisfied that Iam correct in saying that so far as staff appointments, the fixing of wages and increments, and so on, are concerned, the powers proposed to be invested in the Board of Management are neither more nor less than those at present enjoyed by the Public Service Commissioner.
– The honorable senator need not labour that point; I never made any such claim. The honorable senator cannot show that any words I used constitute such a claim.
SenatorTHOMAS. - I have pointed out that the Minister said that when first appointed the Public Service Commissioner’ had a great deal more power, and more duties than he has to-day.
– He had the sole authority at first, but an Act was subsequently passed giving a right of review to the Arbitration Court.
– The Minister went on to say that the difference between the Commissioner and the Board of Management was that the Board of Management could carry out the powers at present vested in the Public Service Commissioner in connexion with the staff matters referred to, but subject to an appeal.
– I pointed out that at the outset the Commissioner had those powers without being subject to review.
– I have not read what the Minister said in that way, but I am still satisfied that the proposed Board of Management will not have one iota more power than the Public Service Commissioner has to-day.
– Not over salaries?
– That is so. I was under a misapprehension as to the remarks of the Minister; we agree now, therefore, that the Board of Management has not more power than the Public Service Commissioner in such matters. It is impossible to have efficiency in an important public Department unless those in charge of the Department have some control over officers whom they consider incompetent. I think Mr. McLachlan dealt at length with the question of the dismissal of incompetent persons. I have already stated on one or two occasions that the proposed Board will have power only to suspend, and that persons who are suspended will have the right to approach the Appeal Board, which body will decide whether they are to be dismissed or not. In saying, previously, that the proposed Board of Management had the right to suspend, I was in error, because the Board, if appointed, will not have power to even suspend, over 30,000 employees, but over only seven or eight persons. That Board will not have the power to send employees to an Appeal Board; it will not even have the power to suspend even a messenger Until this measure becomes law we are right in assuming that the Public Service Act is still in force, and I am therefore correct in saying that the Board will only have the powers of the Public Service Commissioner. In the event of the head of a Department, who may be receiving £1,000 a year, saying that a messenger or a letter carrier should be suspended for incompetency, and the person concerned saying that he was not incompetent, the public servant would be sent before an Appeal Board. The Board would, in New South Wales, be compose*! of one member receiving a salary of £198, plus £30 as an allowance, a second member receiving about £400, and a third receiving £600. If two vote for the retention of the officer in the Service he is retained. It is practically impossible to have efficiency under these circumstances? At the present time there are approximately 24,000 permanent employees in the Federal Public Service, and of that number 142 have been dismissed during the past year, including thirteen for criminal offences. Under an amending measure the Government or the Public Service Commissioner have ,power to dismiss a person who has been found guilty of a criminal offence ; but a few years ago the Public Service Commissioner could not do that. Of the remaining 129 the services of the majority have been dispensed with, without an appeal, and doubtless many of this number consisted of telegraph messengers or assistants of some kind who admitted the charge against them. Of the 129 seventeen appeared before the Appeal Board, and of the seventeen, eleven were dismissed, whilst the remaining six have been retained in the Service.
Some were disrated. In a Service consisting of 24,000 permanent officials, it must be admitted that if in a period of twelve months only 142, including thirteen for criminal offences,, have been dismissed on all sorts of charges, the Service must be efficiently conducted.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that is creditable to the Service?
– Yes, it must be an efficient Service. The point I endeavoured to make on my second-reading speech was that the heads of Departments have to put up with their staffs, that it is practically impossible to get a dismissal on the ground of incompetency. When it is a case of incompetency the person concerned has to go before the Appeal Board, and there have been cases where even doctors have said that a man was incompetent to carry on his work, but the Board has found him competent, and he has been reinstated. So long as the Appeal Board is in existence, and persons’ charged with being incompetent have to appear before it, there is very little probability of the position improving. If the Appeal Board is to deal with such cases, how can either the permanent head of a Department or the proposed Board of Management bring about the efficiency desired ?
The Minister for Defence has stated that the Bill differs from the existing Act, and that the Board of Management will J under proposed new section 11, possess powers that the Public Service Commissioner did not possess. I desire to read an extract from a leading article which appeared in the Argus when this Bill was introduced, as it conveys, I believe, the impressions of the Minister for Defence. The article reads: -
The reform proposed for all this slackness is apparently drastic. The office of Public Service Commissioner is to be abolished, and in its place there is to be a Board of Management of three persons, who are, like the Auditor-General, to report to Parliament annually, and, unlike him, to make special reports from time to time, when deemed necessary. This Board will, in addition to other duties, be specially charged to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of the Departments, by improved organizations and procedure, closer supervision, simplification, and co-ordination of /work, abolition of unnecessary work, improvement in training of officers, avoidance of unnecessary expenditure; oversight of contracts and the obtaining of supplies, and provision of checks to ascertain whether the return for expenditure is adequate. It is to examine critically each Department, with a view to carrying out the above instructions. Full powers are to be given to the< Board to enable it to overcome any passive resistance to its reforms by redtape devices. It has to make its recommendations in the first place to the head of the Department affected, and it may appeal from him to the Minister, and from the Minister direct to Parliament if there be any obstruction or disagreement. Complete powers for investigation are placed in the hands of the Board.
The Board of Management will have no more power to insure efficiency in a Department or to effect reforms than a debating society in Prahran, or the mock parliament in Norwood of which Senators Benny and Wilson were distinguished members. It can only investigate, report, and suggest, and the Public Service Commissioner can do the same. If the Minister for Defence had closely perused the reports of Mr. McLachlan when he was Public Service Commissioner, he would have found that he made suggestions which he thought would be for the benefit of the Service. There was nothing to prevent Mr. McLachlan from suggesting any improvements in the Service which he might deem fit. All the powers proposed to be given to this Board go only so far as the making of suggestions. Has not the Auditor-General suggested reforms year after year, from one report to another, which have never been carried out? What has been the outcome of reports and criticisms of Commissions and Boards which have been appointed to investigate Departments? Honorable senators know well that unless the Commissioner concerned has been actually in the Department to carry out his own recommendations, no action has been taken.
Let us examine the actions which followed upon the criticisms of the Economies Commission. This body was appointed by the Government to inquire into the various Departments and to suggest how they could be run more satisfactorily. The result was that no sooner had criticisms been made than the departmental heads concerned, as well as the Ministers responsible, made ardent replies. The experience has been that no sooner is a criticism launched than the Department involved is up in arms. Honorable senators will recall the experience with respect to the Defence Department. Senator Pearce, as a member of the Government, took his share of responsibility in the appointment of the Royal Commission which so severely criticised his Department. The Commission made many recommendations, and passed severe strictures. Then I heard Senator Pearce, as Minister for Defence, moved to impassioned eloquence in his effort to show that the statements of the Commission were inaccurate. The Minister stoutly defended his Department. That has been the experience in all similar situations. The Economies Commission even desired to investigate whether or not the Senate was spending more money than it should do. Immediately such an attempt was made, the President came to the rescue of the Senate - shall I say - and practically defied the Commission to enter. It is not every Department that can defy a Government-appointed organization in the matter of a proposed investigation. The ‘ Economies Commission examined several Departments and, so far as the Defence Department was concerned, this particular body had not much of an adverse character to say. But, so far as the criticisms of the Royal Commission were concerned, I repeat that Senator Pearce rose to an impassioned defence.
– My defence was rather an attack on the press because it had not published the favorable portions of the report, but only the unfavorable parts. I recommended the Government to adopt the recommendation for the appointment of a Business Board.
– Of course. It would have been difficult to have done anything else, in view of the nature of the criticisms; but the Minister for Defence, quite rightly, no doubt, stood up for his own Department -and its officers. In the course of his second-reading remarks upon this measure, the honorable senator quoted extensively from the Economies Commission, and he said -
It will be admitted from these criticism’s of the Economies Commission, that the members did not approach the Public Departments in any hostile fashion. They have recognised the good and efficient service that was in ma,liv cases being given. It was rather with the system than with those who were carrying it out that they found fault.
That is the verdict of the Minister for Defence, rendered in respect of a Commission which had not severely criticised his own -Department. But have honorable senators read the statements of the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) and bis leading officers in respect of the Economies Commission’s criticism of the Postmaster-General’s Department? Mr. Webster was almost moved to tears. He spoke of the Commission going about and doing its work in a malevolent spirit. He said, in effect, “ I, who have saved some £500,000 during the time that I have been here, am told that my Department is actually accused of extravagance !” Mr. Webster put up a very strong case to show why he and his officers should not have been criticised. This is what Mr. Oxenham, the head of the Department, said of the Economies Commission : -
I desire to say that while a service of over forty years in the Postmaster-General’s Department has accustomed me to a variety of criticism, as well as a great deal of misrepresentation, regarding the Department’s methods and management, its actions, and its officers, the limit in this latter respect has surely been reached in the first progress report, of the Economies Commission. The methods of the Commission, too, in so far as their relations with this Department are concerned, are repugnant to all ordinary notions of justice and fair play, as I feel sure every one will agree who reads what I have to say on the subject.
That is more than a criticism of the Commission; it is an expression of censure on the Government, to begin with. The Government appointed a body to make an investigation, which, however, did not know how to go about its work. I sympathize a good deal with the officers who saw fit to reply té the statements of the Commission. The Commissioners were juniors, dealing with their superiors in the Service. If their criticisms were correct; if the Government were right in asking subordinates to deal with those in higher positions, then those subordinates should have filled the positions of those whom they had so severely criticised. I stress this fact, that immediately _ a Department is criticised by an outside Board or Commission, the Minister concerned, and his officers, reply with a strong defence.
– Order!’ I have listened for a long time to the honorable senator’s remarks concerning the Economies Commission. I do not think the making of a third-reading speech should, be availed of as a mere opportunity upon which to hang a criticism of the report of the Economies Commission.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. In referring to this Commission by way of illustration I admit that I am occupying rather considerable time, but I am only endeavouring to show that a Board of Management, which can do no more than advise-
– Will be placed in the same position, so- far as the criticisms of heads of Departments are concerned, as was the Economies Commission.
– Exactly . And it is rather an important point. However, if the President holds that I may not continue along that line of argument I shall have to cease.
– The honorable senator will be perfectly in order in referring to any matter by way of illustration ; but I listened to his remarks for a long while, amd it appeared to me that they amounted largely to a disquisition on the findings of the Economies Commission.
– It is not my intention to discuss the report of that body except by way of illustration, and, if I occupy a little longer upon that illustration than might, perhaps, be deemed necessary, I take it that that, after all, is a matter for myself.
I repeat that Ministers and heads of Departments, when they are attacked from an outside source, will naturally defend themselves. That is what will occur if the proposed Board of Management enters the Departments. I have much sympathy with Mr. Bright in the remarks which he made when criticisms were levelled at him. He immediately set forth reasons why he had been criticised, and mentioned that one reason was that a certain critic had not received an appointment when he considered he was entitled to it. The Departments will fight as bitterly as possible any suggested reform which does not emanate from themselves. All big institutions such as banks and commercial houses are naturally conservative, and are slow to effect reforms. In exactly the same way our Public Service Departments are slow to initiate reforms, but when they are attacked they hit back with the energy of a steam hammer and all the pertinacity of a debt collector. In replying to the recommendation of the Economies Commission, that telegrams passing through an intermediate State should be charged an additional 3d., Mr. Webster said -
This problem has been under consideration, and a Bill has been in print for four years. I have amended its terms, and only await authority to proceed. This measure, I think, is more equitable than the proposal of the Commission Here is a reform which has been hung up for four years. The late PostmasterGeneral was in favour of it, as was also the permanent head of his Department, and yet nothing had been done to give effect to it. That being so, how long would be occupied in giving effect to any suggestion by the Board of Management to which the Minister and the permanent head of his Department were opposed ?
I object to the passing of this Bill for the reasons which I have already advanced. But the Minister for Defence has not yet intimated what Departments will come within its purview. Of course, all those Departments which are now under, the control of the Public Service Commissioner will naturally do so. But I understood the Minister to say that the Defence Department will not come within its scope.
– I said that other Departments will be brought within the scope of the Bill, and in that connexion I instanced the Defence Department.
– Does the Minister mean that the military side of his Department, as well as the civil side, will come under it?
– Not the military side.
– If the military branch of the Defence Department were to be brought under it, I imagine that there would be a good deal of fluttering in the dovecot. I have a vivid recollection of the occasion upon which the Minister for Defence introduced into this Chamber a Bill the object of which was to transfer a number of officers in the civil branch of the Defence Department from the control of the Public Service Commissioner to that of a Business Board. The reason which he assigned for this step was that, under the Public Service Act, it was impossible to dismiss an employee, and that, therefore, it was quite impossible to secure efficiency. Seeing that the members of the civil side of the Defence Department are to be brought within the scope of this measure, does the Minister’s statement mean that those employees in his Department who are now under the control of the Business Board will be placed under the control of the proposed Board of Management?
– Then I take it that the same thing will apply to the employees of the Repatriation Department. Evidently the Government themselves are npt too sanguine as to the success of this measure.
– ‘Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In conclusion, I merely desire to say that the Bill is incapable of effecting any improvement in our Public Service, and is foredoomed to failure.
– I agree with a good deal of what Senator Thomas has said regarding this Bill. If the proposed Board of Management were vested with the requisite powers we might reasonably anticipate that an improvement would be effected in our Public Service. But the substitution of a Board consisting of three members for a Public Service Commissioner will not achieve anything. However, my greatest objection to the Bill is that we are now asked to legislate upon our Public Service without any knowledge of the provisions of the measure under which the proposed Board will be required to act. If experience has proved that it is necessary to make a change, we should be satisfied that our legislation will really give effect to the change desired. We are merely fiddling while Rome is burning, if all that we do is to appoint three persons to take the place now filled by one without giving them any more power. If we could show the relation of this Bil] to the main Public Service Bill, we might be able to do something, but we have started on’ a journey without knowing where it is to end. We have been asked to do something, and we do not know whether it is to build a mansion, or to construct a dyke. Various complaints have emanated from permanent heads and employees of the Public Service concerning the provisions of the existing law, but there is no attempt made in this Bill to deal with those complaints. When the main Public Service Bill comes before us for consideration, we may discover that it is absolutely necessary to give the Board of Management more power than is conferred upon it by this Bill, and that will involve the consideration of the whole matter over again? I strongly . enter my protest, as . a member of the Senate, against the method adopted by the Government for legislating upon this question. We should first have considered the principal measure dealing with the Public Service, and we could then have adapted the Bill, making provision for a Board of Management, to the provisions of the principal measure. We have begun at the wrong end, and it must, I think, appear to the general public that we are proceeding backward rather than forward.
.- The views expressed by Senators Thomas and Senior were expressed by me at an earlier stage of this Bill. It seems to me that under the main Public Service Bill, Departments which are not now under the control of the Public Service Commissioner may be brought under the Public Service Act, and they will then come under the control of the Board of Management. In this connexion Senator Thomas referred to the Repatriation Department. I mentioned last week the need for some statement by the Government as to the attitude to be adopted so far as the Repatriation Department is concerned. At page 88 of his able report on the Public Service, Mr. McLachlan has this to say, as to the advisability of bringing the Repatriation Department under the Public Service Act -
The largest Department which would come within the category of the provisional service is the Department of Expatriation, established under the provisions of the Repatriation Act, which confers power on the Minister to make appointments for the purposes of the Act. The number of employees of this Department is 512. It is believed that advantage would accrue to the Department if the responsibility of making appointments (subject always to preference to returned soldiers), classification, fixing rate; of payment, and dealing with inefficient, incompetent, or unsatisfactory employees were vested in the Public Service Commissioner in the manner proposed. This Department is still in its initial stages, and with the development of repatriation activities will come added administrative responsibilities which will render it highly desirable that the Minister, the Comptroller of Repatriation, and the Deputy Comptrollers in the several States shall be relieved of the burden of work inseparable from questions of personnel of staffs, and be given full freedom to deal with the problems of repatriation. The Public Service Commissioner, with, the machinery at his command, should be better able to deal with the details connected with appointments and the other matters indicated than the responsible officers of the Department, whose time and attention must necessarily be largely concentrated upon the important duties intrusted to them in carrying out the provisions of the Repatriation Act. Internal management should, as at present, he a matter for the administrative officers, and there should he a clear line of demarcation between their functions and those of the Commissioner in dealing with stuff matters. The immense difficulties connected with the problems of repatriation and the initiation and extension of staff organization are recognised, and it is considered the application of the general proposals made as to the provisional service will be of material advantage in the future administration of the Department.
I do not say that I altogether agree with Mr. McLachlan, because I regard the Repatriation Department as one which in the course of time, when its work has been satisfactorily accomplished, will cease to exist. There are some branches of the Department, such as that dealing with war service, homes, which must continue to operate for so!me years to come.-
– Mr. McLachlan’s report is two years old, and since it was written, the Repatriation Department has been placed under a Board.
– That is what I am coming to. Boards have been appointed to control various Departments, and I should like . to know what their position is to be in the future. They should be responsible for the management of the Department over which they have been given control, and there should not be another Board appointed over them. If Departments that are not at present under the control of the Public Service Commissioner are not to be brought under the control of the Board of Management, what is the reason for appointing three men to do the work that is now done by one? If, in the main Public Service Bill, it is not the intention of the Government to bring under the control of the Board of Management a greater number of employees than are now controlled by the Public Service Commissioner, what is the justification for appointing three men to do the work now done by one? I venture to say that the Public Service Commissioner has not, in the past, been so overworked that it is necessary to appoint three men to do his work. If the Government desire the appointment of. a Board to inquire into the working of the Public Service Departments generally, as laid down by this Bill, they should not be charged with the duties which now devolve upon the Public Service Commissioner. If the Government desire to have a Board carrying out investigations on the lines of those carried out by the Economies Commission, concerning the working of Departments, contracts and so on, I venture to say that the duties of such a Board are not duties which should be intrusted to persons appointed to take the place of the Public Service Commissioner. As Senator Senior has pointed out, we are asked to deal in three Bills with matters that should be dealt with in one.- Instead of having an opportunity to discuss all questions connected with the Public Service at one time. we are asked to take three bites at the cherry. The more I look into this Bill, the stronger the reason appears to me to be for adopting the suggestion of Senator Thomas, that the third reading should be delayed. In spite of the able manner in which the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has taken charge of the Bill, and has opposed all amendments of it, I do not believe that the honorable senator is in favour of the measure. We know that when a Minister submits a Bill to Parliament, he does his utmost to carry it through without alteration. Senator Thomas asked a very pertinent question as to the position which employees of the Defence Department would occupy under the Board of Management. We should have an answer to that question. In my view any member of the Senate would be justified in moving that the further consideration of the Bill should be postponed until such time as we have -dealt with the main Public Service measure. If any honorable senator will move in, that direction, I shall have very, (much pleasure in giving him my support.
– I have only to say that I think that most of the speeches which have been made on the motion now before the Senate should have been made on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. A great deal of the time of the Senate has been taken up in its consideration, and we are now apparently being asked to go over the whole matter again- I trust that the Board of Management is going in for efficiency, and I intend to support the appointment of it.
– I am glad the Government introduced this .measure at such an early stage, because it is of great importance; but before we are asked to pass it w© should bo given some indication of the powers the proposed Board are likely to possess. The Government will be fortunate if they are successful in obtaining the services of three highly competent men to comprise the Board; but if the Board has not power to recommend changes in administration which will tend to economy, very little advantage will be gained. ‘ It is not likely, however, that suitable men will offer their services unless their powers are clearly defined. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has stated that the powers of the Board will be defined in an amending measure to be introduced later. I shall be exceedingly sorry if I am compelled to vote against the third reading of ‘this Bill, but
I cannot support it until I know what the powers of the Board are to be. Many instances have been cited where it has been almost impossible to dispense with the services of public officers who. have been found to be incompetent. Notwithstanding this, we find in proposed new section
II that, although far-reaching powers are given to the Board to make inquiries, the old system of reporting to some other authority still remains.
– The Public Service Commissioner has that power at present.
– Exactly, and unless we increase the powers that are now possessed by the Public Service Commissioner this measure is valueless. It really means the formation of another Department, which will cost a great deal of money without increasing efficiency, and unless the proposed Board has the power to deal with the Service in an effective manner honorable senators are not justified in supporting the third reading.
– Will the honorable senator go through the same arguments .again when the Government bring in the other measure which has been mentioned ?
– When the amending Public Service Bill is introduced we shall probably know what- powers the proposed Board are to possess. We may appoint suitable men as members of the Board, but until we know the powers they are to be given we are merely wasting time. ‘The Government proposal is really to establish an Advisory Council, and if they are desirous of obtaining advice, honorable senators will be quite prepared to give them all they require without -incurring the expense of a Board. I am not in favour of supporting the appointment of a Board that will be costly to maintain and which will be the means of merely giving the Government information which is in the possession of every member of the Ministry at the present time. Every one admits that economy aud increasing efficiency are demanded, and we are merely appointing a Board to tell the Government something they already know. If the Board had the power to prove that some men, even heads of Departments, who are as full of knowledge as an egg is full of meat, should be dispensed with some good would be achieved. The Board should have authority to deal with all officers of the Public Service, irrespective of position, and I ask the Minister for Defence to defer the question of the appointment of a Board until he is in a position to say what powers it is to be given. If the powers are sufficient’ the Government will have my most loyal support, as it is my desire to assist in every way possible to bring the Service to a higher state of efficiency.
.- When this measure was first introduced, I understood the. Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to say that it was a genuine attempt to bring about greater efficiency and economy in the Public Service. I am very pleased to learn that since the Senate last met honorable senators have given the measure very careful consideration. Any legislative effort which will not insure efficiency and economy at this stage of our national history is doomed to failure, and should not have our support. The proposed Board of Management has the power only to advise - that cannot be refuted by the Minister - .and is merely an advisory council to make recommendations to the heads of Departments and to the Minister. Every State in the Commonwealth has recognised the need for greater efficiency in their Public Services, and with the heavy financial liabilities that are facing us at present there must be economy in every public Department. In one State, with which I was intimately connected for many years, it was felt that it was absolutely necessary to amend legislation in the direction of obtaining efficiency and economy. But the provisions that were made were entirely dissimilar to those embodied in this Bill, because power was given to the Commissioner to adopt efficient methods, and not merely to advise. Seeing that another Bill is to be introduced which will contain the whole of the machinery for effectively managing the Public Service, I feel that we are wasting time in discussing a measure of this character. The measure foreshadowed should have been before us at the same time, and I suggest that the third reading of this Bill be held over until it is before us. If that were done, it would be possible to harmonize the provisions of the two measures, and for that reason I support the attitude of other honorable senators who have preceded me.
.- I shall follow the example set by Senator J. D. Millen, and be brief. I have followed the discussion on the third reading, and have taken a little part in it because I cannot conceive the purpose for which it has been introduced. After reading sub-clause 4 of proposed new section 11 it would appear that the proposed Board will have power to report to the permanent head, and, if the permanent head does not take action, it may report to the Minister. Itthen goes on to provide that, if the Minister does not take action within reasonable time, something else may be done. What is the use of legislating in this manner? Does it matter whether we pass the Bill now or six months hence? If the Government desire to pass it in its present form, it is their responsibility. The Public Service is dissatisfied, and the Government have an opportunity of introducing a measure that would give general satisfaction. I do not join with some honorable senators in a general condemnation of the Service, but there is certainly room for more efficient and economic working in many Departments than exists to-day. This Bill does not provide for efficient working, and apparently the draftsman did not have a very clear conception of what is required, as he has merely gone on moving the authority from one body to another. Realizing that no good will result from the passage of the Bill, I have briefly expressed my opposition; and, if the third reading is pressed to a division, I shall vote against it.
– I have very little intention of replying to the criticisms that have been launched this afternoon, because they have not been arguments against the provisions of this Bill, but against the Public Service Act, and with the greater part of such criticisms I agree. Honorable senators know that the Government intend to bring in a Bill this session to amend the Public Service Act, and that that measure will not affect this Bill at all.
– But it does.
– No; because whether we have an amending Bill or the Public Service Act as it is to-day, a Board of Management is required.
– That is not the point.
– The Government say that the Board of Management is required, and if the principal Act is amended or not, a Board is necessary, because of the powers contained in proposed new section 11.
– What are they?
– Paragraphs viii and ix of sub-clause 1 read -
In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
the advising upon systems and methods adopted in regard to contracts and for obtaining supplies, and upon contracts referred to. the Board by a Minister; and
the establishment of systems of check in order to ascertain whether the return for expenditure is adequate.
to submit to the Governor-General reportsas to any matters requiring to be dealt with by the Governor-General under this Act, or referred to it by the GovernorGeneral;
to examine the business of each Department and ascertain whether any inefficiency or lack of economy exists;
Under the present Act there is no power to ascertain whether money is being judiciously spent or whether value is being obtained for expenditure incurred, and this Bill is for the purpose of supplying that omission. The criticism has been against the existing Public Service Act, and the Government are just as anxious as are honorable senators to have that amended at the earliest possible moment; but that is a bigger contract. If a Board of Management is desired, honorable senators should support the passage of this Bill. If the main amending Public Service Bill is passed or not, a Board of Management- will still be required.
asked what would happen if one made two bites at a cherry. I can only reply that if the cherry happened to be unripe the party making the bites might have to call in a doctor. Here, however, we are not making two bites. We are dealing with a subject which stands by itself, irrespective of the question of the amendment of the Public Service Act. No one can read the reports of the Public Service Commissioners which I have quoted, and - knowing anything at all of Government Departments - can fail to realize the absolute necessity for that which this Bill proposes to bring about. I have stated, in respect of the Defence Department, that the position, following upon the establishment of the Business Board, proved ever so much better for myself as Minister. The Board was composed of men who were not public servants, but were keen business men, prepared to give their best advice, from a business point of view, upon such matters as contracts and supplies, and they saved the country a large amount of money. That will be the experience of all Departments, as an outcome of the appointment of this Board of Management.
– Is there not a Supply and Tender Board at present?
– There is, but that is a Board composed of public servants, and its duties are specific and confined. Instead of the Defence Department, and the Navy Department, and various other Departments, calling separately for tenders for supplies of such things as stationery, for example, the Supply and Tender Board ascertains the quantities required by all Departments, and calls for one tender for the whole. The Board under this measure, however, will have an infinitely greater scope of duty. It may be able not only to find out different sources and methods of supply - so saving thousands of pounds to one Department alone - but may be able to discover whether the way in which the Department is using those supplies is economical. That is merely one phase of activity with which the Board may concern itself.
– In addition to all of which it will deal with civil servants.
– Yes, and that is the justification for the appointment of three to the Board.
I desire, before concluding, to correct a slight misunderstanding on the part of Senator Thomas. He remarked just now that the Defence Royal Commission reported upon the Department, whereupon I passionately attacked the Commission’s report. Nothing of the kind occurred. My attack wa9 upon the press, which published the unfavorable portions of the report and suppressed the favorable parts. I pointed out that the Commission had reported favorably upon three-fourths of the expenditure of the Defence Department, which the press had suppressed, and had reported unfavorably upon onefourth of its expenditure. I fully concurred with the Commission’s recommendation, that a Business Board should be appointed, and I, personally, brought the matter before the Cabinet, whereupon the recommendation was adopted.
I cannot understand the opposition of honorable senators who, because they are dissatisfied with the present state of affairs, are prepared, apparently, to lay this measure aside. If they believed that there is scope and opportunity for the Board to do good in the Public Service, they can accept the principle and agree tq the passage of this Bill, without in any way prejudicing their rights and intentions for improving the Service generally, when an amending Public Service Bill shall have come under their attention. And, if honorable senators desire to extend the scope and powers of this Board, it will be in relation to the amending Public Service Bill that they will be afforded an opportunity to do so. This measure, so far as it deals with the powers of the Board, covers the whole position within proposed new section 11. Does any honorable senator object to the powers there set out?
– The proposed new section, is not definite enough.
– It does not dea’ with the staff; but, in relation to that matter, the honorable senator will have his opportunity when the amending Public Service Bill is before the Senate.
– Proposed new section 11 gives no power for the Board to do anything more than report. .
– There, the honorable senator is at fault. If a contract is referred to the Board, and it reports, after investigation, that the contract has been badly drawn, and would result in loss, would not its recommendation in that respect be of value? When moving the second reading of this Bill I gave an. instance of one contract affecting close on half-a-million sterling per annum, upon which, as Minister for Defence. I would have been compelled to come to a decision inside of a couple of hours. Since there was a Business Board operating within the Department, however, I referred the contract to that body. It devoted three months to the subject, and went into its every phase before making a recommendation. Does Senator Payne say that, because it was merely a recommendation, it could have had no value? Do honorable senators suggest that a Minister and the head of a Department would be such fools and idiots as to set up an attitude of passive resistance in respect of any and every recommendation of the Board? Here is a Board which will have authority and time to enter all Departments. It will not be interested’ merely in backing up its own recommendations. It will be called upon to give independent judgments upon matters of great importance, involving, in many instances, no doubt, considerable expenditure. Would not any Minister and head of Department listen very carefully, and, if possible, approve of the studied recommendations of such a body ? If he failed to do so, the Minister might jeopardize his position when the report of the Board came before Parliament, showing how recommendation after recommendation, made in the interests of economy, had been officially turned down.
– If there had not been a Business Board in the Defence Department there would still have been skilled officers who would have been able to advise in the matter of contracts.
– Skilled men who, however, would have been able to give only an hour or two - just as. I myself, would have had to do - whereas the Board was in a position to devote three months to the matter in question.
– Does the Minister suggest that the Board of Management will be able to spend three months over any one item which may arise?
– Since the Board will not be smothered and bogged with masses of papers and administrative details, it will have infinitely more time than a Minister or a head of a Department to devote attention to a matter as it arises. I hope that honorable senators, however keenly they may have criticised the measure, will now assist the Government in passing it.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell), read a first time.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council) [5.26].- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time. The reason underlying its new title is that it deals both with aliens and nationality, though it is essentially related to naturalization. There was a time, prior to the war, when British people were accustomed to regard the question of naturalization as merely an academic one, and one which they took very little interest in. But, owing to the difficulties which were encountered during the war period, it is to-day regarded as a question of vital importance. This measure is not designed to unnecessarily harass people, but the time will never come when we shall be in a position to abandon our right to prevent any undesirable entering the Commonwealth.
The provisions of this Bill are of a very humane character, especially in regard to the treatment which is to be meted out to women and children. In Australia, for quite a number of years, each State enacted its own naturalization laws, and there was no recognition by any State of the naturalization certificate issued by another State. Thus, a Swede who was naturalized in New South Wales found that his certificate was not recognised in Victoria, notwithstanding that he had been de-nationalized in Sweden. But, in 1903, some approach to uniformity in alien legislation was brought about (by the Commonwealth Parliament, although there still remain one or two little weaknesses which have not yet been cured. Naturalization certificates, however, are now recognised -throughout the entire Commonwealth .
The experience gained during the past few years evidences the absolute need for a uniform naturalization certificate, not perhaps in respect of details, but certainly in regard to all main principles. For a number of years, conferences have been held with a view to devising a means by which to deal with this problem within the Empire. As a result, representations were made to the Imperial Government with the object of inducing it to pass a Naturalization Act which should apply to the whole of the Empire. However, wiser counsels prevailed, the invitation was declined, and the Dominions were thus left perfectly free to legislate as they chose upon all questions of this description. But, in 1917, the British Parliament enacted legislation relating to naturalization, and Part III. of the Act which it then passed corresponds to Part II. of this Bill. Under that Part we shall be enabled to recognise a uniform naturalization certificate issued within the Empire. That is to say, that, by legislating along certain lines and adopting certain principles, our certificate of naturalization will be recognised throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. Canada has already adopted those principles, and doubtless New Zealand and South Africa will follow her example.
– In any part of it where similar legislation has been enacted. The certificates of naturalization will then be mutually recognisable. But, if a Chinaman were naturalized in Canada, honorable senators must not assume that he would have a right to enter the Commonwealth. We shall still retain the right, under our Aliens Immigration Act, to exclude anybody whom we may choose to exclude. There are, however, many aliens who may be admitted. The British Government, I repeat, declined to give effect to the recommendation that it should legislate upon this question for the entire Empire. It is certainly a triumph for Australia that its policy has the full backing of the Imperial Government. In 1917, the Act was still further amended in Great Britain. In Australia we have made one or two additions to the War Precautions Act for the purpose of meeting special conditions which arose during the war. But now that the war is over, and the world is becoming more normal every day, we need permanent legislation on this matter.
We also require a very much clearer definition of what constitutes a British citizen, and what constitutes an alien. I have already said that the measure deals with the naturalization and rights of British women. That portion of it appeals to me as being specially commendable, because I know that some very hard cases have arisen in this connexion. My admiration has been aroused on more than one occasion, by the fidelity of British women, who, having married aliens, were prepared to go anywhere with them - even to Germany. Of course, a British woman, upon marrying an alien, at once assumes the nationality of her husband. Under this Bill, it is provided that, in the event of an alien who has become a British subject resuming his former nationality, the woman, ‘by declaring that she desires to remain a British citizen, will be free to do so. Then, again, there were quite a number of persons in this country - young men and women - who believed that they were naturalized by the rights of their fathers. In such cases, provided that they have a clean record, and that their failure to become naturalized was the result of ignorance, it is proposed to grant them certificates of naturalization right up to date. There is still another class in which a doubt exists as to a man’s nationality. It is truly marvellous the number of complications that have arisen in this connexion. Some of these men, whilst believing that they were British citizens, could not produce any clear evidence upon the point. In such cases, where the men are of good character, the Minister is empowered to issue naturalization certificates.
– Will the Minister or the Governor-General have that power ?
– The GovernorGeneral in Council. In Great Britain, the power is nominally in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but in practice it is in the hands of the Government.
The Bill further contains provision for dealing with cases in which aliens who have been naturalized desire to resume their old nationality. Of course, a measure of this description can be much bettor dealt with in Committee. It represents an attempt to mate the law regarding the naturalization, of aliens within the British Empire as uniform as possible. I have previously remarked that in its treatment of women the Bill is the most humane and liberal that I have ever read. Under former naturalization laws, it was possible for a man to become naturalized in Australia after two years’ residence; but under this Bill he will require to be a resident within the Empire for five years. In other words, he may live in Canada for four years, and in Australia for one year, and may become naturalized after twelve months’ residence here, provided that he has lived within the British Empire for four out of the last eight years of his life. That seems to me to be a fairly liberal provision. I think it is not unreasonable to insist that a man of alien birth should have been at least twelve months in the country before he can claim to be naturalized. In view of all the trouble and difficulty wc have had in connexion with naturalization during the war, we are not, T think, attaching too much importance to British institutions in imposing such conditions upon the naturalization of aliens.
It is not necessary that I should speak at greater length on the second reading of the Bill, since every clause may be the subject of debate when we get into Committee. ! .-. i j *.4i
– Will a naturalized New South Welshman, who has been naturalized for the last twenty or thirty years, be required to take out a fresh certificate of naturalization under this Bill?
– No; but he will be given, in exchange for the certificate he now holds, a full certificate of British naturalization.
– Must he apply for the full certificate before he will be regarded as a naturalized citizen of New South Wales?
– All existing rights are preserved. What is proposed in this Bill is the issue of a much wider certificate than any issued by New South Wales hitherto, or by the Commonwealth ; and a man already naturalized in New South Wales or in the Commonwealth will be able to exchange his existing certificate for one giving him the rights -:sf British Empire citizenship. I think that that will be appreciated very much by those who now hold the more restricted certificates of naturalization. Some persons, of course, will be under certain disabilities. For instance, a man proved to have been guilty of trading with the enemy during the war, or to have been engaged in correspondence with the enemy, or to- have helped the enemy to the detriment of the Empire, will not be granted naturalization under this Bill. I think it will be admitted that it would not be fair to .grant naturalization to such persons. There is a big principle involved in naturalization for the protection of British institutions, but it is not desired to exclude from this country people who come here under proper regulations and conditions. It will be found that this measure has been conceived in the most liberal spirit. We are asked, in common with the rest of the Empire, to act generously in making provision for the naturalization of aliens.
– Are we to understand that this Bill is similar to that which has been passed in Canada and other Dominions of the Empire?
– I understand that Canada has passed a similar measure. I believe that South Africa and New Zealand have agreed to adopt similar legislation, modified to meet local circumstances. The basic principles of naturalization will be uniform throughout the Empire, but legislation by the Parliament of each part of the Empire is necessary to give effect to them. Suppose that Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand passed this legislation, and South Africa did not do so, then certificates of naturalization could not be exchanged between South Africa and Australia, or the other parts of the Empire in which this legislation has been passed. It is hoped, however, that all parts of the Empire will come into’ line, and that we shall have a uniform certificate of ‘ naturalization throughout the Empire.
Debate (on motion’ by Senator Q-A.it- DINER) adjourned.
Resolutions or Tasmanian Public SERVANTS
Motion (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– A few weeks ago, the public servants in Tasmania held a very large meeting in Hobart, at which very important resolutions were passed. They were forwarded to Melbourne for submission to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I was requested to arrange for their presentation, and with other honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives, representing Tasmania, I eventually succeeded in securing an appointment with the right honorable gentleman for that purpose. No one’ understands better than I do the difficult position in which’ the Prime Minister is placed. Very few people realize the pressure of public business upon every moment of his time. Jb was only with very great difficulty that we were able to arrange for a very small portion of his time for the reception of the resolutions to which I refer. I might say that we probably would not have been successful in securing the appointment at all if it were not for the fact that I assured the Prime Minister that we would not encroach upon his time by making speeches. The’ resolutions were presented after Tasmanian representatives in both Houses bad been assembled for the purpose. Unfortunately, since then, nothing has been received by way of reply beyond a formal letter to rae from Senator Russell written as acting on behalf of the Prime Minister. I understand that the Prime Minister is now away in Sydney. 1 endeavoured to see him several times recently with the idea .of getting some further reply. I have risen now for the purpose of asking Senator Russell if he will take the very earliest opportunity to press upon his right honorable colleague the importance of having some reply given to the resolutions. We who are members of this Parliament recognise that the Prime Minister cannot be expected to reply straight away to representations made to him, but I hope that Senator Russell, who acted on his behalf in. sending a formal acknowledgment of the receipt of the resolutions, and an assurance that they would receive every consideration, will press the importance of some further reply at the earliest possible moment. The public servants of Tasmania have been communicating with me, and I have been telling them that it is a very difficult matter to get in touch with the Prime Minister, who has so many important matters to attend to. Unless something in the way of a definite reply is forthcoming as to the attitude of the Government towards the requests of the public servants preferred in their resolutions, there will, I suppose, be further meetings held, and further time will be taken up.
– I assume that the only reply Senator “Keating has so far received was the formal acknowledgment which courtesy demands in such cases. I presume that the honorable senator was told that the matter was under consideration.
– That’ is so.
– I regret that 1 am’ unable to say anything more definite at the present stage, although such matters come under my personal notice.
The reason why I oan give no more definite reply at present is that suggestions for the amendment of the Public Service Act have been received from all parts of Australia, and have been referred to a sub-Committee of the Cabinet, which is considering the amendment of the ‘Act. Senator Keating will understand that I cannot anticipate what the ultimate decision of the Cabinet on these matters will be. I will look into the matter to which he has referred, and will supply him with any further information which can be given, subject to the condition that it will not anticipate the intentions of the Government with regard to legislation.
– The resolutions dealt with specific proposals.
– I understand that is so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at5.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200818_senate_8_92/>.